Back to Basics – Sours

– by Madeline Stefan

In this second week of our Back to Basics series, we’re diving into Sour beers. Sours have a Belgian heritage and are loved for their bright and delicate flavor profiles that leave the palate bone dry. Specific styles you may have heard of include Lambic, Flanders Red, Berliner Weisse and Gose.  

Sour beers stand out for their dominant lactic sourness and complete lack of hop bitterness (usually coming in at around 3-8 IBU’s). These beers are brewed to be intentionally tart, with a lower PH that results in a higher acidity. Unique to this style of beer is the presence of yeast strains and bacteria that are allowed into the brew. These organisms prompt an acidic style fermentation that affords Sours their unique and intentional tart flavor.

Pilsner and wheat malts used in Sour beer styles result in the familiar biscuit/cracker flavors we often taste in these beers. And, when combining these bready flavors with lemony lactic sourness, we can expect to experience aromatic notes of sourdough bread and fruity esters.

In our brew house, we have used two different processes to brew our sours. The first involves an aging process that often infuses fruit into the brew. Because the beer brewed in this process ferments in barrels for several months or years, these sours are time consuming.

Most of our Sours here at Legion are Kettle Sours, which result from taking the other brewing route. I asked our assistant brewer, Scott Griffin, to weigh in on this brewing process — offering the fame and fortune that obviously comes with being featured on this blog in return.

Scott explains that, in brewing a Kettle Sour, “the lactobacillus is left in the kettle at a temperature that makes it happy and promotes its growth over any competing microorganisms.”

“One of the coolest elements of our Kettle Sours is the prevalence of local ingredients. Almost all our Kettle Sours use a base recipe of North Carolina grain, and frequently local produce.”

At Legion, we’ve brewed some awesome Kettle Sours. Recently brought back to the taproom by popular demand is Juan Direction. This Margarita Gose blends citrus and salty flavors with the traditional aspects of a sour, and adds a kick (with tequila infused limes…)

Ginseng is for Lovers is another one of our popular Kettle Sours we released back in April. Our brewers infused lemongrass and ginseng into the beer to highlight the lemony tartness and peppery spice — the result? An insanely fun and drinkable beer.

To counter the substantial tartness of Sour beers, they are often served with the addition of a shot of simple  syrup. Here at Legion, you can order our Berliner Weisse known as Carolina Sparkle Party with syrup shots like blackberry sage, strawberry basil, peach mint or blueberry lavender.

In tasting Carolina Sparkle Party, you will also notice a light bread dough malt flavor that supports its sourness as well as aromatic notes of fruitiness a light flowery character. It’s been said that, in the 1800’s, Napoleon’s troops dubbed Berliner Weisse beer as The Champagne of the North — give Carolina Sparkle Party a taste, and you’ll see just how right they were.

Even though Legion is in its early years, we’ve still managed to get an aged Sour into the taproom. Fuzzy Lover is a mixed fermentation peach American Sour Ale. We used 600 pounds of peaches and aged the beer in American Oak barrels for an entire year. The rustic funk, juicy acidity and intense complexity that the aging process gave this beer made it well worth the wait!

Be on the lookout for a brand new Sour we’re introducing to the taproom this week! Aptly named Hot Fuzz, this funky kettle sour features a fantastic combination of jalapeño and peach flavors.

As Scott mentioned, the produce we’re using in this sour comes from right here in North Carolina. Our entire staff pitches in when a load of produce arrives- whether it be peeling strawberries or pitting peaches, its always a team effort!