There are good beers, there are OK beers, and then there are the beers that are so interesting, so different, so jolt-your-tastebuds that you’re wandering around a barbecue at 6 p.m., shoving your pint under everyone’s nose, demanding “try this.”
Right now, Parallel 49 Brewing Co.‘s sour beer lineup manages to encompass all three.
Even in the variable world of craft beer, sours are strange beasts.
Usually fermented with wild yeasts and special bacteria, and sometimes aged for a year or more to develop flavours, these brews can push the limit on what even a reasonable widely-drunk craft beer fan might have encountered in the liquor stores and pubs of Kamloops.
Depending on the beer, a sour can offer the same lip-smacking sensation sour mix brings to a cocktail — minus the heavy sugar and dish-soap fake lemon.
Parallel 49, out of Victoria, is going heavy on the sours this sumer. So far, I’ve picked up three locally. And, to play into all the beer snob cliches, they seem to get better the more specialized and limited they are.
Apricotopus (6.3 per cent ABV) describes itself as a sour saison with apricots, and that’s kind of what it tastes like — in that it’s kind of fruity, kind of wheat-y and kind of tart. While it’s crisp and refreshing thanks to souring bacteria, it’s the least memorable.
More interesting is the Sour White Ale (7.5 per cent ABV) out of the brewery’s barrel-aged series, which seems like the perfect beer to buy the avowed wine drinker in your life.
Aged in Chardonnay barrels, this wild-yeasted beer’s got the richer mouthfeel of wine, a bit of oak and a note of not-quite-ripe pear.
There’s a funkiness here you won’t find in wine (something that’s apparently common with sours), not to mention more carbonation, but drinking it felt like crossing the line into sommelier territory.
Different still from both of these is the brewery’s third anniversary offering, Lil Redemption (6.7 per cent ABV), a sour cherry beer that lives up to its description.
This beer pours nearly opaque red, with inches of lacing on the glass. It’s got a taste to match, pulpy with the flavour of sour cherries and with a gorgeous earthiness courtesy of its wild yeast. Yet, a good amount of carbonation kept it from feeling overwhelmingly heavy.
According to Parallel 49, this one spent two years in Cabernet barrels before the cherries were blended in. While I didn’t pick that up at all in drinking (I’m really not a wine person), the sheer amount of care and time paid off in one of the most complex, interesting sips of the summer.