Beers of the Week: Summer Sours

I had a fun beer experience at the local brewery Orpheus a few weeks ago and didn’t put fingers to keyboard, so I’ll combine my somewhat vague recollection of that hot afternoon along with a review of a couple of sour beers that I’ve consumed in the past week.

A few weeks ago I volunteered to go to a vet’s office to get our special-needs cats some prescription dry food. It never fails, you get to perfectly healthy baby kitties and they end up with a urinary tract infection and it’s high-end chow for the rest of their lives. If I took another way home I could stop at Green’s, quite possibly my favorite “bottle shop” in town. I intended to browse. I saw a few interesting bottles and was about to check out when one caught my eye.

I’ll make you wait for the payoff. On Memorial Day weekend my long-time beer buddy Steve and I Ubered to Orpheus Brewing for their second anniversary gathering. The promise was a bevy of barrel-aged beers. I created a sheet in my ongoing Google beer doc with a list of them all. There were 17 beers and we got 9 samples.

A quick paragraph on Georgia’s beer laws. When you go to a brewery in Georgia, you “buy” a “tour” of the brewery and they give you free beer. The rule is you get 36 ounces, so generally speaking you get a certain number of tickets and tokens and each pour is supposed to be a set amount. For this event, we got nine tickets. I knew that we’d get more than four ounces a pour.

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The event started at 2 p.m. and we were right on time. It was a really hot day, hello summer in Georgia, but there were lots of tents and a food truck. We got our commemorative glasses, tickets and went for it.

When you look at a beer list at a brewery, generally speaking you will get the type of beer and maybe a few other words. Here’s the description of Atalanta Reserva: wild ale aged 18 months in Sauternes barrels with plums. When I first heard of barrel-aging a beer, most of them were bourbon our whiskey. Things have opened up a bit since then. I learned that saunternes is a sweet French wine. I like my beers on the sweet end so that was promising.

I do not have a play-by-play. It was hard to hold a beer in one hand and take notes in the other, so I have pictures of the first three beers I tried and left it at that.

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The beers I pictured were Atalanta Reserva, which was less sour than I expected and was lighter than most of the beers I tried that day. I was nervous about The Minotaur, a whiskey-aged sour that was great and instead of a smack to the face of booze the whiskey was nicely incorporated. Abandon All Hope was their bourbon-aged imperial stout aged on vanilla beans and that was the winner. I got a beer behind Steve because they were changing the kegs. We went outside as I drank that one (it was 14% so I had to take my time) and by the time Steve went down to try it, they were out.

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That’s the downside of these one-off tastings. Once they’re out, they are out, and this was day three of the four-day celebration. The people-watching was great and the view in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park is tough to beat. Lovely day and I ended up with two of their great glasses.

About that bottle…

I picked up the bottle and noticed the distinctive Westbrook label. Just that week their Mexican Cake, a stout aged on cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks and fresh habanero peppers, made it through town. The bottle shops in town that I follow on Twitter announced its arrival and shortly thereafter announced that it was gone. A local joint had a keg but I got stuck at work and couldn’t make it. All I could see regarding this bottle was that it was a beige color and it was called Leopold. The label mentioned a sour blonde ale aged on sauternes wine casks and refermented it on peaches and apricots. I haven’t seen a bottle with that magic word sauternes so I bought it. The bottle was the most expensive I’ve purchased, $20 for the bomber.

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We hung with our friends the Funks so I brought the bomber and shared it. The beer was a nice gold color as expected. The sour was strong, almost overpowering at first. You got that funk that’s present in the Westbrook Gose that’s filling my fridge this summer. At first I thought I didn’t like it but by the end I wished I had bought more. It is an expensive bottle and this style won’t be heavy on the booze. It’s a good high-end summer beer experience.

A beer I had earlier in the week during Going for Two deserves the Beer of the Week treatment. Wild Heaven’s Dionysus is a Cuvee and try to say that once let alone three times fast. I opened it after drinking a watermelon gose so my mouth wasn’t ready. This is a dream collaboration for me, a wild/sour beer combined with the Belgian quad style. Here’s a fun video describing the process of making this beer.

The suggestion is to drink some now and save some for later, but I enjoyed the first bottle so much that I knew I couldn’t wait for the second. It might be my #1 beer of all time and it’s seasonal/might be done for the year so the happiness of the beer experience is mixed with sadness.

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