This weekend's drinking assignment is all about sour beer, which you should be stocking up on to celebrate two big beer holidays in honor of this tart and refreshing style. Of all the varieties of beer made today, sour or wild ales may be the most mysterious and fascinating. As I wrote back in February, the concept of sour beer can also be off-putting but if you give it a chance like I did, you might find the unconventional flavors to be incredibly rewarding.
Though the sharp acidic taste may surprise you, this style of beer has been brewed intentionally in Belgium for hundreds of years. There is a high probability that historically all beer was at least somewhat tart, due to wild yeast in the air. The unpredictable nature of these wild yeasts, in both forced and traditional spontaneous fermentation, also makes this one of the hardest forms of brewing to master, sometimes requiring brewers to create a separate brewing facility for fear of infection. Still, sours have quickly become the darling of the craft beer industry and beyond, even winning over wine lovers with their dry, fruity tartness.
If you like sour beers or have just been itching for a perfect time to try them, this Saturday, September 14 is that day. It's Zwanze Day, the annual international release of a special sour beer made by the famed Cantillon Brewery in Brussels, Belgium. This year the Zwanze offering is an Abbey-style beer, an interesting style, as today’s abbey breweries rarely use spontaneous fermentation. With respect to the modern trend, Cantillon chose to top-ferment the beer, but even using this method, wild yeast still found its way into the brew, making this a unique and funky take on abbey ale.
There are only a number of bars that are allocated some of Cantillon’s special Zwanze brew — there’s a full list of bars on their website. And as coincidence would have it, Saturday is also International Sour Beer Day! Do you need any more excuses? Well, there is one good excuse not to drink sour beer at least during the day as Saturday is also Yom Kippur. However, if you’re like me and have to skip out on the day’s festivities because of the religious holiday, fear not: sour beer is a perfect refreshing quencher after a long fast!
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