Seth is a beer writer, outdoor enthusiast and non-profit consultant.

Sou'Wester

It's been a long, hot summer of tasting beers with added fruits and berries. Now, as we're staring at the inevitable arrival of fall, I'm giving my palate a break. This week, I'll be tasting a selection of beers from New England that combine two trends taking the industry by storm: dry hopping and sours. “Dry hopping” is the practice of adding dried hops to finished beer, which imparts  floral, herbal characters, rather than bitterness. Sour beers are given added tartness with acids (Really. Usually with “food grade” products like lactic acid) or by introducing microorganisms. Combining these two trends yields a beer that's simultaneously fruity and sour. Let's toast the waning days of summer with a hoppy, sour beer!

 

Rising Tide Sou'Wester (Portland, ME)

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 5.7%
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery
Tasting Notes: Pours a glowing orange-gold with a short-lived white head. Aroma has sour orange and pine resin. The first taste is a riot of citrus flavor. Like a glass of fresh grapefruit juice: sour, quenching, and refreshing all at once. The fusion of the citrus hop flavors and the natural acidity creates a taste hallucination so vivid, I can almost feel the little pieces of grapefruit stick in my teeth! The bitter hop flavor that lingers on my palate even resembles the hint of bitterness from the seeds and the pith of the fruit. Though it's undoubtedly a beer, the Sou'Wester so closely resembles grapefruit juice that it could easily be consumed for breakfast, and would probably be a great addition to a cocktail.

 

Liquid Riot Tropical Storm (Portland, ME)

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 4.8%
Availability: Purchased at Rosemont Market and Bakery

Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy, fuzzy yellow. Aroma mingles tropical fruit, skunky herbs and vinegar. The initial sip is filled with pineapple — but not fresh, juicy pineapple. It's exactly the pineapple flavor of the juice from those little, rusty cans you find at discount markets! There are notes of passionfruit, guava and melon under the acid blast of the grapefruit. The aftertaste mingles skunky herbs and fresh grapefruit zest. For all the fruit, this beer is remarkably dry on the tongue, and super quenching.

 

Henniker Brewing Company Sour Flower (Henniker, NH)

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can

ABV: 5.0%
Availability: Purchased at Whole Foods

Tasting Notes: Pours a luminescent amber with a fine white head. Aroma is warm and bread-like, with lemon and jujube. Tasting partner Jake takes a sip and exclaims, "STARBURST!" This is not an arcane point about astrophysics, but commenting on the sour, tacky fusion of tropical fruit flavors. It's an apt comparison, and the flavor gets my salivary glands pumping. The sourness is compelling, reminiscent of a fresh rhubarb stalk, prickly and summery. The hop character is limited to the citrus and herb characters, almost no bitterness is evident in the initial flavor. However, the aftertaste has a subtle bitter quality — a pleasant contrast to the sour, fruity opening.

 

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