Tart Beers for Turkey Time

The category known as sour beers deserves a place at the Thanksgiving table. Some are fruity, but all deliver varying degrees of refreshing tartness.

Courtesy of Cape May Brewing Company

Like cranberry sauce, which cuts through the comforting fog of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, the category known as sour beers deserves a place at the Thanksgiving table. Some are fruity, but all deliver varying degrees of refreshing tartness.

Until Louis Pasteur, most beer was made by exposing wort (unfermented liquid) to yeasts and bacteria in the air. The results were naturally tart. Brewing today is as much science as art; yet far from disappearing, sour beers are in vogue. Made with wild or cultivated yeasts and bacteria known as souring agents, they come in a wide range of styles and flavors. Lambics are often brewed with fruit. Other types include gose, Flanders red ale, American wild ale and Berliner weisse.

At the Referend Bier Blendery in Pennington, owner James Priest makes wort at local breweries, then exposes it to the air overnight. He ages the inoculated wort in wood barrels and blends the resulting sour beers to create a final product that expresses his intent.

Priest expects to have his flagship wheat ale, Berliner Messe, ready for Thanksgiving. “With its champagne-like effervescence, it’s plenty festive,” he says. “And it complements a wide array of hearty foods.”

Cape May Brewing has devoted a separate building to making sour beers. “Sours are like the new frontier,” says Jimmy Valm, the director of brewing operations. “There’s a huge variety of barrel types, aging times and bacteria strains. You’re only limited by your imagination.”

For Thanks-giving, Cape May has created Lady in Room #10, a fruity red ale aged with plums and black currants. Dark City Brewing in Asbury Park has a kettle-soured ale (a type that requires less aging) called Summerfield, with an appealingly low abv of 4.0 percent.

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