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The Rise of Sour Beer and What You Need to Know

Posted: March 8, 2018
Sour Beer

Are you ready to pucker up your palate? The newest sensation in brewing is of the sour variety. Brewers worldwide are letting their IPAs and seasonal brews take a backseat to bring you this tart and tangy taste.

The power of sour

The rise in popularity of sour beer can’t be ignored. Beer aficionados are looking for a brew that has a little bite. At one time, they may have found their kicks in hefty hops. But now, they’re gravitating towards the sours – a tartness that keeps them on their toes.

Sours are becoming so popular that brewers like Two Roads in Stratford, CT, are building dedicated facilities for their sour varietals. The sour batches from Garvies Point are typically sold out within 24 hours of brewing. The demand is clear: Sour is here to stay.

According to “TIME” Magazine, although the rise and popularity of sour beer may seem new, the sour flavor is actually a throwback to the beginnings of beer brewing:

“The taste of sour beer may be exotic to American palates, but the beer’s flavor actually dates back to the early days of brewing, especially in Belgium where Lambic, Flanders and Gueuze style ales were born and are still very popular today.  The drink gets its tart taste from bacteria used in the brewing process, like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, which produce acids that cause it to sour.”

Yum! And it’s precisely that bacteria that makes sour brewing such a tricky craft.

Brew carefully

Brewing a sour beer has now become an art form all its own. There are a number of considerations in its creation and curation – from oxygen, to yeast, to microbes, and beyond.

What is perhaps even more complex than brewing a sour is the cleanup. The bacteria used to brew a sour beer can contaminate every other beer you brew next. And diligently cleaning your kegs from the sour dregs is just as important as it is to clean your facility. Careful, procedural sanitation is the key to avoiding potential future contamination.

Since the use of bacteria isn’t souring any appetites anytime soon, what can you – the brewer – do to protect yourself against tainting other batches with sour bacteria?

How to protect your kegs and facilities

The first order of protection is knowing where the kegs you are using have been, and if they contained a sour beer at some time in the past. If you are tracking your kegs, make sure your tracking solution offers a maintenance module that will allow you to identify these “sour” kegs. You also want to be notified when the kegs have returned to your brewery. When kegs that held a sour beer return, you will need to ensure proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures are followed – which you can only do by knowing which kegs held which beers.

If you’re looking for a cost-effective keg leasing solution, our lease-to-own program, KegFleet, is a great option for sour programs. Hillebrand’s KegFleet kegs are brand new and come equipped with KegID (keg tracking solution) scan codes. Using the KegID maintenance module will allow you to know which kegs have held sour beers and therefore contain the bacteria that can flawlessly create a sour – but quickly contaminate any other beer you’re brewing. In fact, using KegID is a great safeguard, no matter where you get your kegs from. Knowledge is power, and with all the factors to consider in brewing and cleaning a sour, you can never be too safe.

Your brews are your business. And protecting your business and the integrity of your product is of the utmost importance. If you have any questions about KegID, KegFleet, or any other Hillebrand services that can help you in your sour adventures, contact us today!

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