It’s time. You’ve been putting it off, making excuses, telling your friends that you just don’t get it. But your moment has arrived. It’s the middle of Portland Beer Week, a celebration of this city’s craft beer culture. You can’t put it off any longer. This is the week you finally understand the world of sour beer.
Perhaps you’ve tried one of the many varieties of sour beers, and it confused your palate — the tart flavor so far from what you expect beer to be. “Where are the hops?” you wondered upon sipping a gose.
Or perhaps your first few sours were just plain bad beers. With sours gaining momentum in the craft beer world, there are plenty overly acerbic, poorly crafted sour beers out there.
Whatever has scarred you against the world of sours need be left in the past.
As part of Portland Beer Week, Novare Res Bier Café is throwing the fifth annual Where the Wild Biers Are, a sour beer festival featuring 34 taps and a long list of bottles of strictly sour beers from Maine and around the world.
“The lineup will consist of the best lambics, Flanders ales, American wild ales, Berliner weisses, goses and mixed cultured farmhouse ales we could get our hands on,” Shahin Khojastehzad, bar manager at Novare Res, saidd.
Here’s why this weekend is when you finally take that deep dive into sour beers: Novare Res has been saving its best sour kegs and bottles all year just for this occasion. Khojastehzad said that the Portland bar has gathered about 60 kegs, and the Novare Res team will whittle that down to the best 34 to put on draft for the weekend-long event.
If you’re already a sour beer fan, you’re salivating. If you’re a sour beer neophyte, you should be.
Before I dig into the sour beers that will be on display at Where the Wild Biers Are, let’s define what a sour beer is.
Sour beers get their tart flavor from either the wild yeast known as brettanomyces or from “good” bacteria, such as lactobacillus and pediococcus.
Wild ales brewed with “brett” yeast age for up to a year (in some cases longer) in wood barrels or stainless steel tanks to let the slow working wild yeast ferment all the sugars. The resulting beer can have a wide range of flavor from bright fruity notes to barnyard funk.
Beers brewed with the good bacteria have tart flavors ranging from the subtle pucker of a gose to the refreshing tartness of a Berliner weisse.
On Saturday, Novare Res will tap a rare keg of Cantillon Nath from Brasserie Cantillon, a fourth-generation Belgian brewery world famous for its wild ales.
Nath is a two-year lambic blended with rhubarb. If you want a pour of Nath, I suggest you get to Novare early on Saturday. It’s a rare event when any keg of Cantillon is tapped in America, let alone Maine.
When Khojastehzad and Russ Hoskins, a former Novare employee who now brews at Liquid Riot, first came up with the idea for a sour beer festival in 2012, there were very few Maine breweries making sour beer varietals. With more Maine brewhouses now practicing the art of brewing wild ales and kettle sours, Where the Wild Biers Are will feature more Maine beer.
“I am very proud to announce that we will be serving three spontaneous beers from Maine: drafts of Allagash Resurgam and glass pours of Oxbow Native Wild and Rising Tide Harkness,” Khojastehzad stated.
In addition to the world-class sours available this weekend, the Portland bar will also feature a menu of foraged foods and wild game meats as a way to further celebrate all things wild.
Novare Res has curated an unrivaled list of beers for Where the Wild Biers Are. It’s time you join in on the wild rumpus that is sour beer.
WHO: Novare Res Bier Café
WHERE: 4 Canal Plaza, Portland
WHEN: Noon to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; more information on Facebook
BEER: This weekend-long celebration features 34 taps and an extensive bottle list of sour beers from Maine and around the world.
FOOD: A menu of foraged and wild game fare will be available all weekend
5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, The Thirsty Pig, 37 Exchange St., Portland.
As mentioned above, the city of Portland is in the grip of another Portland Beer Week. For a full listing of the many events still to come this week, head to the official website (portlandbeerweek.org/events). Get out there and experience our fair city’s world-class beer culture. Portland’s newest brewery, Goodfire Brewing, is using the week’s celebration to launch its brewery with a tap takeover at The Thirsty Pig. There has been considerable buzz about Goodfire’s beers on social media, so this should be a great way to dig into their catalogue.
10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, bus pick up at 79 Commercial St., Portland, $45 (includes hearty snack and tasting glass).
The Zymurgy Home Brew tour is a Portland Beer Week institution. Each year, the Maine Brew Bus drives patrons to the homes of three different home brewers to examine the extensive brewing setups in these domiciles. A tasting of what’s brewing in the domestic kettles follows presentations from the home brewers. Over the years, some of the home brewers on these stops have become commercial brewers in Maine. This is an exciting way to see how Portlanders push the boundaries of zymurgy at home as some of them prepare to go pro.