Fear not, loyal reader! We've got plenty of fruited, berried and spiced beers yet to sip this summer. But for the next few weeks, I'm giving giving my palate a change. We'll venture into a little-known variation on an increasingly common genre — hopped sour beers. A sour beer includes ingredients, or organisms, that acidulate it, lending a mouth-puckering flavor. Hopped sours include large volumes of powerfully flavored hops, adding floral, herbal and even fruity flavors to the already sour brew. I'll level with you, loyal reader — when I read about this style I was convinced craft brewing had jumped the shark. But after a long, hot summer of humid days and fruited, beery nights, these hopped sours are just the ticket to push reset on your palate.

 

Mayflower Brewing Fresh Start (Plymouth, MA)

ABV: 5.0%

Format Sampled: 12 oz. can
Availability: Purchased at RSVP
Tasting Notes: Pours a straw-yellow with a huge, raucous white head. Aroma has orange peel, pine needles, and a brisk breath of ocean. The first sip is a pleasant wash of herbal hop characters. I get grapefruit zest, orange peel, lemon and bergamot, all swirling around in a pleasant terpene haze. As the floral, herbal hop character builds in intensity, a lovely tartness rises to meet it. It's mild and tangy, like the bite of a good pinot gris, or the distinctive sourness of a well-made limeade. This beer is neither too hoppy nor too sour. Somehow, the fusion of modest levels of both flavors work to intensify each other, leading to a remarkably refreshing, but still nuanced, beer.

 

Collective Arts Mash Up the Jam (Hamilton, ON, Canada)
ABV: 5.2%

Format Sampled: 16 oz. can
Availability: Purchased at RSVP
Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy yellow with a modest, off-white head. Aroma has tar, passion fruit and spruce sap. The initial taste is an electric, sour tingle, mixed with gentle, whole-wheat toasted flavor of a Hefeweizen. The brisk, snappy sour quickly predominates, but the gentle wheat anchors the sourness and keeps it from becoming excessive. Exciting flashes of fruit flavor flit through the diminishing tartness — passion fruit, pineapple, pear, and sour orange. The sour is up front, but the floral, tropical hops aren't far behind. The Mash Up is a beer for sour fans who like to take a walk on the hoppy side, but not necessarily hop-heads who want the occasional pucker.

 

Oxbow Brewing Co. Double Daisy Farmer (Newcastle, ME)

ABV: 8.0%

Format Sampled: 500 ml capped bottle
Availability: Purchased at RSVP
Tasting Notes: Pours a hazy orange with a dense, off-white head. Aroma has some farmyard funk, orange zest, and dry, dusty herbs. Tasting partner Heather compares the aroma to a “good mimosa.” The initial sip is powerfully tart, almost approaching a white balsamic in terms of sheer pucker. The punchy acidity is muted by huge barrel characters, musty herbs, dry wood, aged vanilla, and preserved lemon. In fact, all the flavors in the Daisy Farmer appear mutated, intensified and improved by fermentation or aging. It's a celebration of the transformative power of time, craft and busy microorganisms. After all the tumult, my palate barely has the resources to appreciate the fine hope flavors that dance around the powerful acidity and barrel flavors.

 

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

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