I have copped some criticism over the years for my disdain of sour beers. In my defence, way back when I was developing my beer knowledge the quality of “sourness” in a New Zealand beer was basically considered a cardinal sin and/or an absolute brewing fault. The only people doing sour on purpose were those crazy Belgians.

When it comes to beer, it is all a matter of taste and I would like to present the case study of Rick. Now, Rick (if that is his real name) is my oldest friend in New Zealand. We first met at the now closed Manning Intermediate School in the People’s Republic of Christchurch. It is fair to say that Rick has questionable taste in beer.

This is, after all, the guy who used to smuggle Harrington’s Ngahere Gold into events in his cargo shorts. That was the genesis of his catchphrase “some of the best beers come from my pants”. Now that I have confirmed Rick’s beer history, I can also confirm we drink beer together every Monday while watching TV shows or bad movies. [1] His beverage choice is generally the cheapest lager on the shelf at Thorndon New World. For the record that is usually Hollandia lager which scores a rare 4 (out of 100) over at RateBeer. [2]

Yet when, as he phrases it, when “the payday gods have smiled on me” then Rick’s beer of choice is suddenly Rodenbach Grand Cru. Yep, one of the most complicated and polarising beers of all get go is his preferred quaffer. This is a man who turns his nose up at some of the finest pale ales in the universe that I have offered him because they are “too fruity” or “too bitter”. Yet he loves a beer that tastes like sweet and sour pork made out of cherries that then broke up in a bitter and awkward scene at the local karaoke bar. [3]

The guy adores a beer that I wouldn’t drink. He is not alone though. Sour beers are soaring in popularity and the bar that picked this trend well before it was cool is celebrating with a significant beer event. Sourfest 2018 at the Malthouse 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 second half of the sour beer menu:

8Wired Once upon a time in Blenheim (8.5%) – Harking back to his days at Renaissance Brewing, Soren Erikson gives a shout out to his old home town with this strong Lambic style beer. Made with Sauvignon Blanc (literally), it is sour with notes of sour lemon, vanilla and oak.

8Wired Hippy Cucumber (4%) – This is a sour Berliner Weisse but dry hopped with Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Riwaka hops. In brewer Soren’s own words “after dry hopping and chilling we rack it onto sliced cucumbers. We just chuck the cucumbers into the tank just like dry hops. I feel it gives a nice little subtle taste of cucumber to the final beer.”

I have no words to describe this nonsense – except that I quite like it.

Garage Project Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb – Apparently named after the radio slang for background noise (“rhubarb”), this is a sour brew infused with the souls of many innocent rhubarbs. This is technically a sour fruit beer but actually it is a sour vegetable beer. America classed rhubarb as a fruit in the 1940s in order to avoid import taxes. It is tart, with notes of green apples and pink celery (better known as rhubarb).

Craftwork La Framboise (7%) – People are raving on-line about the colour of this beer. Being a colour blind gent I have nothing to add to that conversation other than even I know the drink is pink and/or red. Probably some shade that the late artist known as Prince would have worn as a sort of head covering. The beer is moderately sour and full of raspberries. [4]

Tuatara Table for 25 (3.6%) – This is the special birthday beer brewed for the 25th anniversary of Malthouse. Table for 25 is a 3.6% Little Belgian Ale, probably better known as a table beer. I can attest that it is only mildly sour. My assessment would be that this is an excellent gateway beer to the kingdom of sourness.

Hop Federation Berry Sour (4.2%) – It is sour, packed with berries and won a Silver Medal at the 2017 New Zealand Beer Awards.

North End Wild Nectar Peach and Mango Spontaneous Ferment – This is so new that there is no on-line record of this beer and I am having to go on the word of Ciaran the Cultured, Crafty and Considered Malthouse Unit Manager that this beer actually exists. Ironically, it is brewed by his near namesake Kieran, Kieran Haslett-Moore the former cheese monger, beer wrangler and now head brewer at North End on the Kapiti Coast. One can only presume it is has peach, mango and sourness.

Crooked Stave Surette Reserva (6.2%) – All the way from Denver, Colorado, USA. This beer is a barrel aged Farmhouse Ale with notes of lemon, oak, grapefruit, brettanomyces, and green apple.

In terms of the title, it is taken from the quotation that “The sour quality is set opposite to the bitter and the sweet, and is a good temper to all, a refreshing and cooling when the bitter and the sweet qualities are too much elevated or too preponderant.”

It was uttered by Jakob Bohme, described as “a German philosopher, Christian mystic and Lutheran Protestant theologian.” His thoughts on sour beers are not recorded though he was likely to be in favour.

Next time we drink to Shawn Germain. He is the husband of Rachel Homan, a member of the Canadian curling team at the Winter Olympics. Mr Germain achieved internet fame and a place in my heart by being filmed drinking two beers at the same time while cheering for his wife… in Korea… at 9am local time. He defended his actions saying “I am not a drunk. I am a Canadian.” You sir, are a bona fide hero. Eh?

[1] He will be utterly mortified but those days really helped me through depression.

[2] Disclaimer: My secret pants beer is Skol Super Strength Lager which scores 1 on RateBeer. Only because there is nothing lower…

[3] Secretly quite proud of that descriptor.

[4] Well, that explains the Prince joke in the previous sentence.


Neil Miller

Beer Writer

Cuisine Magazine

TheShout Magazine

DrinksBiz Magazine


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