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category-iconBeer Reviews

A Sour for the Sourless?

December 20, 2017

By Robbie Sgro, December 20, 2017

Forgive the cliché, but my aversion to sours stemmed from a bad experience on an ordinary night of drinking.

It wasn’t because of over indulgence, like swearing off rum from having one too many. I was still in my formidable craft beer drinking years, eager to try anything and everything, regularly finding new styles I instantly loved and subsequently seeking them out at various breweries. On this night, I was with some friends at New Holland Brewing’s taproom. Promotions for a sour of theirs, I don’t recall exactly which one, were abundant. Already a couple beers into the night was no time for a flight, and wary of being a sample abuser during a crowded bar night, I ordered a full pour.

I could barely get through eight ounces of the beer. As the night progressed, it became clear I was nursing this beer for far too long. My friend observed this embarrassing display, surmised that this beer couldn’t possibly be so sour that it was taking me this long to drink, and offered to take a swig. Not being the most experienced pair of sour drinkers, he confirmed it was indeed too tart.

The damage was done.

I’ve avoided sours for the most part since then. Of all the trends of styles that seem to dominate craft beer for a given period of time, sours are a group I haven’t fully submerged myself in. Hazy New England IPAs? Gotta try ’em all. Same for practically anything that had a stay in a barrel, color me curious.

But a sour that I’ve regularly purchased or looked forward to its release? Hasn’t happened. Goses and saisons on the sour side have snuck into my fridge more each year, but I've stayed away from the truly funky sours and wild ales that are growing as mainstays and in demand.

Consider this the ultimate endorsement for Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Noire – a sour for those who don’t like sours.”

It’s no surprise that a brewery that ferments all of its beer in oak barrels with wild yeast produces a great gateway for the sour beer curmudgeon. Jolly Pumpkin has been a sour staple in Dexter, Michigan, since 2004, distributes to nearly 30 states and has been expanding with taproom locations around Michigan, and opened a location in Chicago in October. One of its year-round offerings, Bam Noire, is named after Bam, the brewery’s dog adorning the label.

Bam Noire’s dark red/brown appearance is a welcome view for someone who might be apprehensive about wading into the sour pool. On the pour, it gets progressively darker at the top with minimal head. It certainly smells like a sour, with lots of yeast and funk, and green apple.

But lo and behold, it’s more of a reserved sour that isn’t overpoweringly tart but still very acidic and crisp. It’s tantamount to a plum, with a wave a bitterness at first, then a welcome sweetness. Aged for two months in oak barrels, Bam Noire has a well-balanced finish that doesn’t leave a lingering sour taste stuck to your mouth. A swath of tart cherries emerges as it warms, as an added bonus for patient consumers.

Sours have their place in the craft beer footprint, and it’s apparent even to holdouts such as myself. If you’re one of the seemingly few who tend to avoid them, consider this the ultimate endorsement for Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Noire – a sour for those who don’t like sours.

Try this beer with Saucey
ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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