Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project just dropped a bombshell on its Facebook page: The Denver brewery, known nationwide for its wild and sour ales, has begun canning three of its beers and will start distribution in June, just in time for Colorado's outdoor-loving populace to grab a four-pack and head for the hills. There will be a release party on Friday, June 9, at 5 p.m. at the brewery's taproom at the Source.
That's big news, since it marks a major shift for the brewery, which has only bottled its beer in the past, and for Colorado beer drinkers who don't have a lot of options when it comes to wild or sour ales in a can. Part of the reason for that is because mouth-puckering sour ales, which are brewed with bacteria and funky yeasts, often continue to ferment after they have been bottled. But that process could cause problems in cans (like the dreaded can grenade).
As a result, most of the breweries that can beers in this category stick to kettle-soured beers that don't evolve much once they have been packaged, or to beers brewed with Brettanomyces yeast, which creates the funky barnyard-like aromas and flavors — rather than sour notes — that people enjoy so much.
But the number of sour and wild beers on the market is growing, especially with some new entries this year. Not everyone is going to want that saliva-inducing pucker when they crack a beer at a campsite, on the river, or in the backcountry, but for those who do, here are eight sour or wild ales to try this summer.
Pink Vapor Stew
Ska Brewing, Durango
Born in its Mod Project, a small brewery within Ska's brewery, Pink Vapor Stew, which just hit cans last week, is planned as a year-round beer. Brewed with beets, carrots and ginger, along with some Citra and Galaxy hops, Pink Vapor Stew is "a tropical medley of citrus and sour flavors blended together," the brewery says. And it's pink!
Tartastic Lemon Ginger Sour
New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins
New Belgium is known around the world for its killer sour beers on draft and in bottles, but the brewery has also tried its hand with a variety of pseudo-sour or tart beers in cans. The latest is Tartastic Lemon Ginger Sour, which just debuted and is in stores. With aromas of lemon and lime, honey, white wine and ginger, this beer provides a "strong sourness initially, turning moderately sweet" and finishing with "very light bitterness," New Belgium says.
Dyad Kombucha Brett Saison
New Image Brewing, Arvada
One of the most unusual beers in this list, New Image Brewing's Dyad blends beer with the eye-opening sharpness of Rowdy Mermaid Kombucha in Boulder. Brewed with pilsner and acidulated malts, it was funked up with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. Dyad is widely available on liquor-store shelves.
Tart N Juicy Sour IPA
Epic Brewing, Denver
If there's a flavor of beer that Colorado can be credited with pioneering, if not inventing, it's the sour IPA, an unusual crossover that makes some people cringe and others jump for joy. And Colorado has certainly paid Epic back for its Tart N Juicy IPA, which debuted in 2015: It's now the brewery's number-one seller here. The beer combines the "clean, puckering tartness of kettle souring with an abundance of juicy, citrus-driven hops," Epic says.
Vincent Van Couch
Odd13 Brewing, Lafayette
"Vincent Van Couch is an eccentric artist who goes around painting over the lettering on street signs when he's not doing still lifes of sunflowers," or so goes the backstory for the character on this beer's canned label. Odd13 gives superhero or character backstories for many of its beers, but the real story is that this year-round hoppy session sour was brewed in a way that is similar to a Berliner Weisse, which is why the ABV rests at a low 4.6 percent.
Avery Brewing, Boulder
For those who love their sour with a bit of salt, Avery canned El Gose, part of a wave of gose-style beers that hit the market in the past two years. Very low in alcohol — at about 4.5 percent ABV, gose beers are tart German-style wheat beers; Avery's has lime and sea salt to give it a zesty disposition.
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Sour Red Ale
Acidulous, no location yet
If you feel like getting really nano, give Acidulous a shot. Run by a Boulder couple, Acidulous makes — and cans — its sour beers at Crazy Mountain Brewing in Edwards while it searches for a location of its own. The beers are a little hard to find, but check at specialty shops spread around Denver and Boulder. So far, Acidulous has made a couple different styles, including this lovely nod to the Flanders-style reds in Belgium.
Hop Savant Brettanomyces IPA
Crooked Stave, Denver
Details are short, but this ever-changing beer is one of my favorites in a bottle, so it stands to reason that it will be terrific in cans as well. Similar to Epic's Tart N Juicy (above), it mixes the fruity flavors of hops with some funk — in this case, Brettanomyces yeast. Crooked Stave typically brews Hop Savant, at 6.8 percent ABV, with Citra, Mosaic and Simcoe hops and then dry-hops it with a rotating series of hop varietals. The brewery hasn't said yet what the makeup will be for the canned version, but I'm looking forward to trying it.