Where did all the Wild/Sour beers go?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Amendm, Aug 14, 2019.

  1. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (509) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    I visited a few stores over the weekend with the hope of spotting some Wild/Sour beers and found nothing interesting or fresh, now I realize that some of the styles under this heading are rare to begin with but where are all the Bretts, Goses, and Wild Ales. Allagash is about the only game in town. Lambics are somewhat accessible.

    Down the Road brewing Co. makes a line of Berliner Weisse called Feyborn with Strawberry Rhubarb, Blueberry, Cranberry, etc. flavors. These are semi-sour and fruity as expected but that's about it for the style.

    I understand that IPAs/IPLs and pale beers in general take a huge share of the market but why are Wild/Sour beers so rare this season?
    Disclaimer; I realize there is no season for most styles, however I am certain there were more choices last summer.
  2. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (1,740) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Society Trader

    My local breweries are always tossing out a sour/wild. I never seem to not see them actually they seem on the uptick around town compared to before.
  3. Joe13

    Joe13 Initiate (34) Aug 7, 2018 New Jersey

    I feel like most of the wild/sour beers out there now are being made as approachable as possible for non-sour drinkers to enjoy. Brooklyn brewery, and Sixpoint make some decent ones that are year round, but they aren't interesting enough. Allagash is your best bet, along with Firestones sour program or even Crooked Stave if you see any of their stuff by you. I always check the single bottles rack for these beers, as you will most likely have the best luck finding something on that shelf. Going to local breweries may be a good option, but I've found most brewers are just doing kettle sours, which again, to me are not complex or interesting enough and usually full of unfermented sugars making the beer overly sweet and not balanced.

    I feel as if the summers prior to this brewers tried to get people on the sour train, and it worked mostly with gose's, but this year seems to be the year of pilsners, and IPLs (which I'm not too mad about)

    Best of luck on your hunt for some good wilds/sours!
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  4. ElChuques

    ElChuques Initiate (90) Oct 8, 2014 Arkansas

    If you’re craving mixed/wild fermentation and Allagash and lambic are your main choices, I’d say you’re good.

    I’m also seeing more kettle sours than ever around here, but they seems to be trending away from the ridiculous acidity arms race in favor of approachability. I dig it.
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  5. MNAle

    MNAle Poo-Bah (1,511) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    A bottle shop I checked yesterday that lists their current stock (not here... near where I am planning a visit soon, so I was pre-shopping) has 172 different beers in stock of the styles:
    • Berliner Wiesse
    • Gose
    • Lambic
    • Flanders Red
    • Gueuze
    • Sour (just listed as so)
    I guess maybe it depends on where you look.
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  6. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Meyvn (1,326) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Probably has something to do with the demise of larger format bottles. A lot of US breweries packaged their sours in corked and caged or 22oz bombers and stores are reluctant to purchase beers packaged this way.
    oldbean, Amendm and drtth like this.
  7. mambossa

    mambossa Disciple (380) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    Making a beer sour through fermentation or oak aging is a lot deeper of a process than kettle souring. It’s basically trying to control certain flora and microorganisms that really wanna go crazy.

    Usually wild ferm beers tend to be more expensive for this reason. But IMO theyre always worth the money. This is why Kettle-souring is definitely picking up. I see no shortage of kettle sours on the shelves; it’s easier, faster, and ultimately more cost effective.
    readyski and Amendm like this.
  8. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,567) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota

    Finding something non-sour, non-milkshake, non-hazy, non-NEIPA is often harder than finding a wild/sour beer in these parts. Minneapolis is fortunate to have a handful of breweries that do a really good job with wild/sour beer and they will probably continue to do so for some time to come.
  9. LeRose

    LeRose Meyvn (1,386) Nov 24, 2011 Massachusetts

    I have noticed a slight reduction in choices at High Spirits and Nikki's in Providence, but there were a few at High Spirits - a bit harder to find since they rearranged the shelving. Bretts - that I can agree - haven't seen many (if any at all) lately. I didn't hit Nikki's this past weekend. High Spirits didn't have anything noteworthy from Allagash in my opinion (well, Curiuex but that doesn't fit the category) and I am an Allagash fanboi. I picked up a new brew from Oxbow there - farmhouse ale with lime and salt, so maybe that's a wild gose??? And they had a couple of offerings from Springdale Barrel Room. Both usually have some from Rodenbach, but that's Flanders red. Bottles (the shop) on the east side - I don't hit there frequently, but they sort by style and had a shelf section full when I did a quick in/out last weekend - didn't notice exactly what they had. Just over the border at the Swansea Yankee Spirits - hit or miss and it's a freakin' safari finding the styles sometimes (I think customers "help" rearrange things on them occasionally). I'd assume they are all the same. Usually they have Capt. Lawrence and the Cascade fruit sours and I have had good luck with Allagash and Springdale there. If you are from RI, how close are you to Julio's in Westboro? It's a couple hours from me and not worth my time, but their stock used to be pretty good and if you are in western RI near the MA border, it's not too far.
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  10. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,936) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I think you're probably facing a local case of supply and demand. They are findable here but only at some places. e.g., my local bottle shop has at least three different Russian River -ation beers at the moment, as well as a few others from various breweries. They may sell slowly but they sell steadily.
    beertunes and Amendm like this.
  11. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (509) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    Westboro is I few miles away from my work, I will check this one out. Thanks.
    LeRose likes this.
  12. John_M

    John_M Poo-Bah (6,370) Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Society Trader

    This was the same reaction I had as well. Wild/sours are extremely easy to find here in PDX (bottles of wild/sour ales took up a quarter of the cold box at the beer bar I was at last Sunday), and then of course the Cascade Barrel House is here in town.

    Was just taking a look at the tap list of one of the more popular beer bars in town (Beer O'clock/Lardo), and of the 29 beer selections they currently have on tap, 7 are sours.

    I don't think the style is going away any time soon.
  13. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,936) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Agreed. Hidden by the crowd perhaps but things like RR -ation beers aren't going away.
    beertunes likes this.
  14. papposilenus

    papposilenus Meyvn (1,193) Jun 21, 2014 New Hampshire

    No Hermit Thrush in Rhode Island?

    (Proclamation has 4-packs of Ooh! Strawberries this week).
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  15. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (509) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    Thanks and that Oooh! series looks interesting, enjoyed a few pale ales from Proclamation.
    Hermit Thrush, have not seen any in R.I. but I saw a review written by a member from Mass.
  16. islay

    islay Aspirant (276) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    I'm seeing more fruited kettle sours than ever previously. Wild ales (Brett-fermented) and slow sours (in which the bacteria are introduced via open fermentation or barrel/foeder aging) are a very different story. Many of the breweries around here that started slow sour programs largely have pivoted away from them, as the beer doesn't move in taprooms, bars, and liquor stores, especially at the high prices necessary to cover costs of production. I know of a few local breweries that have slow sours aging away in barrels and are nervous about their commercial prospects when they're ready.

    Similarly, I recently spoke to a brewery owner at a highly respected taproom-oriented brewery who used to put out some Brett beers, and I encouraged him to bring them back. He told me they'd sit on tap for months if he tried.

    I suspect that there never was a large market for such beers in America, that the perceived interest in these beers came during a time in which craft beer geeks were hyping up challenging beers instead of easy ones, and that time has passed. I also suspect that the emergence of fruited kettle sours has shifted consumers' expectations of what "sour" means (from complex, deep, and challenging to simple, refreshing, and accessible).

    I'm a big fan of wild ales and slow sours and am disappointed by their diminishing commercial prospects, for the record.
  17. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,936) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    FYI, the gradual disppearence of such wonderful beers began around here well before the onset of fruit sours, etc. Currently in my basement, waiting patiently for me, there are 7 bottles of Gueuze all purchased in 2013 or before. (In fact, some years back, on the very evening that I first heard that a German beer focused restaurant in Philly (Brauhaus Schmitz)
    had just put a Goze on tap (Wait, what's that you wrote?? ) I was enjoying one of my then store of bottles.) There was one shop I'd visit on the way to visit relatives that was a regular stop coming home because Tilquin Gueze was new enough to still be sitting on the shelves there. Haven't see any bottles of Gueze of any brand on any shelves around here since 2013. Supply hasn't grown as rapidly as demand world wide.
    #17 drtth, Aug 15, 2019 at 2:25 AM
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019 at 2:38 AM
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  18. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,463) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland

    Bruery Terreux 750mls and 11.5oz bottles are nearly everywhere in stores I see. They are mostly outstanding to world class IMO and don't get the great ratings due to easy accessability/lack of rarity I'm sure. Allagash of course is awesome. Prairie makes some great funky sour options. I see alot of regional/locals on shelves, but I'm not quite ready to pull the trigger on most as they don't have the pedigree or ratings to justify the risk of the cost.

    Of course you have alot of the world class to excellent Belgian sours easy to find in most stores as well.
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  19. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,458) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Jolly Pumpkin is still cranking out sour beers done the old-fashioned way in barrels, but even they have released a few non-sours in recent times. Their stuff should be available to you.
  20. InVinoVeritas

    InVinoVeritas Devotee (427) Apr 16, 2012 Wisconsin

    This is rather simple. If a brewery is operating as a business, let's be honest not all do, they are making strategic decisions. Customer preferences on a macro level is shifting away from sour products. Naturally there is still interest by some. However, building a business case to justify risk/cost isn't there. Therefore, breweries are simply making the decision to brew alternative beers.
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  21. jasonmason

    jasonmason Initiate (168) Oct 6, 2004 California

    I think you're spot on, especially in the part I bolded. With so many newer drinkers to craft thinking that fruited kettle sours are true sour beers, I would not be surprised at all in an artificial inflation of interest. I think the continued sweetening of kettle sours with lactose and adjuncts illustrates this. I can't imagine introducing a mango-lactose kettle sour drinker to something like Mother Funker.
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  22. islay

    islay Aspirant (276) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    A couple of years ago, a local brewery made a "Milkshake Kettle Sour" (kettle sour with fruit, vanilla, and lactose) as a joke to poke fun at a couple of over-the-top trends by joining them in what was supposed to be a ridiculous concoction. Such beers now are not uncommonly brewed unironically.
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  23. spersichilli

    spersichilli Initiate (87) Apr 26, 2018 Florida

    Sour beers seem a lot more prominent AT breweries versus on store shelves. Lots of local breweries in my part of Florida are doing them for sure
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  24. alucard6679

    alucard6679 Aspirant (220) Jul 29, 2012 Arizona

    On shelves I mostly see goses
  25. DBosco

    DBosco Devotee (492) May 1, 2011 Massachusetts

    Hermit Thrush has started appearing in a few Boston area stores over the past year or two. Still rare around here, but very good beers.
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  26. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,084) Sep 24, 2007 Northern Mariana Islands

    Leaving the "Big 4" of regional/wild beers (Ale Apothecary, DeGarde, Cascade, Garden Path) out of the discussion, there's plenty of stuff from places like Wander, Pfriem, Propolis, E9, and Logsdon, on shelves and tap around here. Plus, a lot, if not most, others do at least some souring.

    Maybe your local/regionals are too focused on cranking out the Murkbomb of the week to be bothered?
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  27. Noah_Aimar

    Noah_Aimar Initiate (108) May 13, 2019 Oregon

    Is that because they are awkward to store? Or that they don't really sell?
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  28. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,084) Sep 24, 2007 Northern Mariana Islands

    Perhaps they are intertwined? Large format bottles might be/are a PITA for the retailer, but unless one has an actual basement/garage/other storage option, storing the big are a huge PITA for us consumers. Especially, if one is an apartment/condo dweller.

    If one can't store it at home, is one inclined to purchase it in the first place? And, if we consumers don't buy them, why should retailers stock them?

    I dunno, above my pay grade.
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  29. Celtics76

    Celtics76 Defender (686) Sep 5, 2011 Rhode Island

    Aren't there too many wild/sours on shelves these days? Especially the large format bottles. I see plenty caked in dust everywhere I go.
    Amendm likes this.
  30. islay

    islay Aspirant (276) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Yes, in many parts of the country, slow sours don't move. They sit on the shelves literally for years. Whether that's because the prices at which they make sense to produce are too high for the public to pay or because the public doesn't want them at any price is an open question, though I suspect more the latter given how much the same public is willing to pay for crank-'em-out fruited kettle sours and NEIPAs. Remember, these are very challenging styles that are actively offensive to many imbibers, and the craft beer customer base in 2019 doesn't exactly scream "sophistication" or "adventurousness." I could see the story being different in mature markets like much of the Pacific coast and Colorado (been a while since I visited), where there's a large number of long-time craft beer fans and the scene isn't dominated by the limited tastes of newer arrivals.

    As I touched on previously, several prominent breweries in the Twin Cities, including Fulton, Indeed, and Fair State, started big pushes into slow sours a few years ago, and all of them appear to have pared back their efforts due to public indifference. Wild Mind, the brewery in the area best known for wild ales and slow sours, is phasing them down (not out, but only because it has a very expensive coolship and foeders that it doesn't want to lie fallow) to concentrate on hip styles using "controlled fermentation." It's also taken to throwing in a ton of fruit that apparently wasn't in the original plans long after the base beer was brewed to dumb down its old slow sours for public consumption. A brewpub-in-planning in Minneapolis originally intended to be slow-sours-focused, relying on guest taps for non-sour beers, but already has pivoted to planning to do only a small number of slow sours before the place even has opened, presumably after getting a better sense of market demand (or the lack thereof). I also know of a local brewery that once planned to start a second location focused solely on slow sour and wild ales, and the owner is relieved that the plan fell through because he now thinks it would've been a commercial bust.
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  31. zac16125

    zac16125 Poo-Bah (1,786) Jan 26, 2010 South Carolina

    I feel like there’s infinitely more sours now then there used to be, even say 3-4 years ago. Most of them range from not very good to bad. I guess the same could be said for nearly every craft style these days though.
    Amendm likes this.
  32. southdenverhoo

    southdenverhoo Disciple (381) Aug 13, 2004 Colorado

    If less satisfying...
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  33. islay

    islay Aspirant (276) Jan 6, 2008 Minnesota

    Do you think there's much crossover in customers for kettle sours and slow sours? I think there's some, but the output tastes so radically different that I can't imagine that there's all that much. I know I would rarely substitute one for the other. I think fruited kettle sours are aimed mainly at younger consumers with less experience with craft beer or complex flavor profiles, who can enjoy their light, refreshing tartness and familiar fruit flavors. Slow sours, on the other hand, appeal to a small subset of experienced craft beer fans who seek deep and complex flavors and can stomach the acidity as well as to some wine aficionados looking for a relatable entry point into craft beer.

    I agree that the kettle sour craze started as a cheap and easy way for breweries to get in on the sour action that previously had been limited to slow sours, but I think it has morphed into something that could hardly diverge more in flavor and that targets a very different demographic and drinking experience.
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  34. mambossa

    mambossa Disciple (380) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    I completely agree with you on all fronts. Slow sours have a bit more of a niche following, and there’s an even smaller window of consumers that appreciate, or are unbiased to, both a good slow sour and kettle sour.

    With such a narrow sliver of the beer demographic to appeal to, paired with the extra time/money to produce, I can easily imagine some markets having little to no wild ferm sours being distributed or even bottled. And you’re right, juxtaposing them with the hyper-fruited/pastry/lactose insanity, that only pulls more eyes away from wild sours.
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  35. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (509) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    That is part of the problem.
    I need to get off of my @$$ and hit up some local breweries.
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  36. vtcraft

    vtcraft Initiate (158) Apr 1, 2013 Vermont

    Plenty of sours on the shelves in the Burlington vt area. Of the top of my head A bunch of offerings from allagash, oxbow, ale apothecary, and lost apply just came to the state. Heck Trader Joe’s has a Petrus blend
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  37. Beer_Stan

    Beer_Stan Initiate (113) Mar 15, 2014 California

    Perhaps up for a trade? I literally have access to hundreds of sour/wild ales here made locally and as far up as Oregon. When the markets fade, opt for a trade. Cheers.
    Amendm likes this.
  38. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,677) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    Crooked Stave is in town so I always? have access to a quality Wild Ale when I yearn for one. That and some Belgian imports.

    One of our locals brewed a blood orange sour, that I got to sample, that tastes promising. Yeah, blood orange sour, not a blood orange IPA. :slight_smile:
    Amendm likes this.
  39. Amendm

    Amendm Zealot (509) Jun 7, 2018 Rhode Island

    Thanks but I do not trade a.t.t.
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  40. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,677) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    One local brewery is experimenting with sours. So far, so good.
    Amendm likes this.