As my love of wine has grown over the years, my love of beer has started to wane – with one exception. I discovered sour beers several years ago, and was immediately hooked. I love all things tart and sour from tangy pickles to the most pucker-inducing vinegar, so it was to be expected that tart and funky sour beers would appeal to my palate. I was very excited when I heard Upland Brewing Co. was coming to town to introduce DC to their many sour brews.
Upland Brewing teamed up with local favorite All Purpose to provide delicious food and beer pairings, and we couldn’t wait to get a taste. We were lucky to get to try four special sour brews with suggested dishes from the kitchen.
First up, we had a Iridescent, a lighter style barrel-aged blonde sour ale paired with Togarashi salume and pickled veggies. Iridescent is a great entry-level sour beer for those that think they don’t like them. Tom, for example, is and IPA guy and usually not at all a fan of sours but he really liked this one. The tart, fruity and refreshing nature of the beer was also the perfect pairing with the fatty charcuterie.
As we would learn, these beers are deeply nuanced and complex with a lot of acidity, which makes them very similar to wine when it comes to food pairing. This was equally evident with the next combination of Hopsynth and straciatella bruschetta with asparagus and trout roe.
Hypsynth is a dry hopped blonde sour ale, and one of the crowd favorites of the night. The hops don’t manifest themselves with as much bitter flavor as they do in IPAs, but instead balance out the tartness of the beer in a way that makes for a completely crushable brew. We loved the way it paired with the salty straciatella and roe.
We enjoyed the next two sours, Cursed Kettles and Black Prairie, with some of All Purpose’s famous pizzas.
Cursed Kettles is a kettle sour aged in oak barrels on figs and black cherries in collaboration with Prairie Artisan Ales of Oklahoma. As an Okie, and a fan of Prairie’s beers, I was really excited to try this one. According to Upland’s website, “each brewery was interested in exploring territory that the other was familiar with: Upland’s barrel aged sour program and Prairie’s experience with kettle souring and Brettanomyces.” Combining both of their expertise resulted in a beautiful, complex beer with a funky, malty finish that was one of my favorites of the night.
Up next, Black Prairie uses Cursed Kettles and ages it on blackberries, resulting in a fruitier take on an already delicious beef.
We enjoyed these malt-forward beers with two pizzas, the Buona with tomato, pepperoni, mozzarella, chili honey and basil and the Sedgewick with whipped ricotta, taleggio, mozz, parmesan, chives and true honey. Although we’re talking about beer here, I can’t not talk about how delicious both of these pies were. I especially loved the honey on both versions. I’m drooling now just remembering how good they were.
But, back to the brews. I would say that both of these are sour beers for sour beer lovers. For those less enthused with tart, funky beers – these might be a bit above and beyond what you’re willing to tolerate. But you should still try them, and keep trying them, because like wine – as you continue to taste and find appreciation for this style of beer you’ll find that you might slowly come around to the sour side of life. I speak from experience! In the past, Tom has always left me to drink my sour beers alone, but after this tasting he admitted that there was something to the funk and now wants to start trying more sours in addition to his beloved IPAs.
Luckily, he’ll have ample opportunity to do so now that Upland Brewing Co. is becoming more and more available in the DC area. Look for them at all of these restaurants and retailers around town. And check back often, as they’ll be releasing new beers every time they come to town.