While every rational person can agree that these occurrences are all truly terrible, the Malthouse has found a more nuanced but far more evil way to torment this particular beer writer. They make me write about sour beer – a lot.

It is not that I do not like sour beers – that is unfair. I loathe sour beers. Once I almost created a diplomatic beer incident by opining that a particular American sour beer tasted like “a bat took a whizz in my mouth.” The beer in question was considered a world classic… and I was drinking it in the brewery that made it… with the brewer who made it… and other famous brewers who adored it… and some of the best beer writers in the world who rhapsodised about it.

The Awkward Turtle was doing laps that day.

The beer at the centre of the ‘controversy’ [1] was Russian River Supplication from Santa Rosa, California, USA. Somewhat ironically, they also make my favourite beer in the history of time – Russian River Pliny the Elder Imperial IPA. I have an empty bottle of that august brew sitting to my right as I write this. It is one of the five Plinys I have ever drunk and I treasure every one. Inspired by this paragraph, I noted the Pliny label demands that the beer not be aged or stored, but instead be consumed immediately. That has never been a problem for me.

Even more ironically, the chapter on sour beer in my big and beloved Oxford Companion to Beer book was written by Vincent Cilurzo, owner and brewer at Russian River Brewing Company, and the host of the bat whizz table of awkwardness. However, the man really knows his sour beers which is why his brewery is (rightly) famous for them. Here are the edited highlights of his entry:

“While a certain level and quality of acidity is widely considered desirable in wine, often forming the backbone it flavour structure, acidity is usually considered a flavour fault in modern beer. When speaking of beer, the word ‘sour’ is usually pejorative. That said, there is a range of older beer styles that are traditionally acidic, and together with modern variants inspired by them, they have been termed, perhaps a bit rakishly, ‘sour beer.’ [2]

When well made, they can be among the most complex and refreshing of beers, terrific with food and easily pushing the boundaries of what the modern drink thinks of as ‘beer’… Many of these new sour beers have no agreed-upon guidelines and are yet to be classified in any particular category.”

Malthouse has embraced sour beer since at least 2013 putting it ahead of the bell curve. However, New Zealand drinkers have not been far behind with sour beers enjoying strong growth year on year. Fundamentally, more breweries are making more sour beers because, frankly, more people are drinking them. This phenomena lead to the creation of Sourfest, a celebration of piquant and pungent brews at Malty. [3]

Sourfest 2018 starts on Saturday 3 March 2018 and will continue right through until the sour beers run out. That could be as early as Sunday 4 March 2018 even though the festival will showcase local sour beer examples from 15 breweries ranging from the large to the very small.

Here is the first half of the sour beer menu:

Panhead/Gigantic Dutch Rudder Marionberry Sour – This is a collaboration brew made by Panhead Brewery (Upper Hutt) and Gigantic Brewery (Oregon, USA). Wellington and Oregon have forged a strong brewing relationship over recent years with a number of collaborative beers and brewer exchanges. The Dutch Rudder uses Marionberry, the most popular variety of blackberry in the state of Oregon. [3] The berries bring in tart, earthy and sweet notes.

Te Aro Flanders Red (7.6%) – This beer is named after the area in Belgium rather than the character in The Simpsons. It is a red sour ale, not a ripped evangelist. People are always getting mixed up over that issue. I have tried it but only because they would not pour me another (excellent) Te Aro pale ale until I did.

Garage Project Barrel Aged Plums Plums Plums – I am going to go out on investigative limb and suggest this Garage Project beer is made with a large amount of plums, is sour, and has been barrel aged. It turns out it was indeed made with “Jack’s mums plums” for Sourfest 2017 and is now making a rare reappearance.

Fortune Favours Blue Goose – This is an experimental blueberry Gose. So it is a combination of fruit, sour, tart and salt. I have only just got that “Goose” is a play on “Gose”.

ParrotDog Specimen A – Specimen A is part of the new ParrotDog Microflora line and is a kettle soured boysenberry beer. The boysenberries are from Nelson and bring a sweetness and tartness, but are not overpowering.

Emerson’s Umeboshi – When I first encountered Emerson’s many years ago, I never would have imagined they would make a sour beer with Japanese pickled plums. In fact, I do not believe there were any Japanese pickled plums in Dunedin at that time. That has all changed with the limited release of this Gose flavoured with said Umeboshi.

Hallertau Doris Plum Kettle Sour – Conversely, I am not surprised that Steve and the team at Hallertau are making a plum beer. It seems a natural part of his self professed “Epicurean Lifestyle”. [5] Black Doris plums are highly prized for their juiciness and have been a staple in Kiwi jams, cakes and preserves for decades.

The rest of the line up will be in next week’s blog.

In terms of the title, it is taken from the quotation that “I suppose any note, no matter how sour, sounds like a song if you hold onto it long enough” from DeWitt Bodeen. Born Homer DeWitt Bodeen, he was a film and televisions writer in the 1940s through to the 1960s. I think he made a mistake dropping the “Homer”…

Next time we drink to Pita Tuafatofua, the famed shirtless flag bearer for the island of Tonga at both the Olympic Games (very hot) and the Winter Olympic Games (very cold). He has given one of the greatest sports interviews of all time (link below) with a mixture of humour, observation, inspiration and humility. Even though he is likely to come last in his event, he will always be a champion to me.

[1] Basically me versus the rest of the beer universe – certainly the rest of the table. Supplication has a rare 100% score on RateBeer.

[2] This does not strike me as particularly “rakish”. They are beers which are sour. Sour beer as a term is almost Germanic in its literalism, with literalism being the complete opposite to rakish.

[3] I am convinced Colin the Handsome yet Softly Spoken Scottish Proprietor initially assured me Sourfest was going to be a one off but this appears to be (at least) the fifth occurrence. I may be the first person ever to be deceived by a Glaswegian…

[4] Don’t worry, I had to look it up too.

[5] Translation – he brews completely and utterly nude, emotionally and physically.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

DrinksBiz Magazine


Malthouse Sourfest Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/166090520838744/

Legendary Pita Tuafatofua interview – https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/olympics/101458564/tonga-olympics-flagbearer-pita-tuafatofua-charms-pyeongchang-with-his-shirt-on

Malthouse Facebook – www.facebook.com/pages/Malthouse/7084276173

Malthouse Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/malthouse

Malthouse Taps on Twitter – www.twitter.com/#!/MalthouseTaps

Neil Miller on Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/#!/beerlytweeting