Last Week, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. held what it dubbed the "Sour Symposium. Hosted at The Yard in Tempe, the $50 session included presentations from Eric Salazar, New Belgium's cellar master, and Lauren Salazar, the brewery's sensory specialist and beer-blender; a sampling of fancy meats and cheeses; and a lesson on blending sour beers, culminating in the opportunity to taste version's of La Folie, a sour red ale, from five different foeders.
That last part may sound like gibberish to the uninitiated, but for the beer geeks in attendance it was the highlight of the event. The sour beers that New Belgium puts into kegs and bottles are actually blends of many different versions of the same base brew that have been fermented in different foeders, or giant oaken barrels, populated by yeast and bacteria that produce sour, funky flavors. Each barrel creates a unique environment for the microflora, and the beers the little critters affect can have wildly different profiles. The chance to see just how different -- and to attempt to blend these base beers into a tasty whole -- was enlightening.
Also eye-opening was the presentation given by the two Salazars, which was filled with secret stories from the brewery, explanations of the process of making a sour beer and more. Here are the best things I learned from them.More »