Sour Fest Recap: Pucker Up Buttercup

Ah, the annual Sour Fest at Avery 2011 edition!  A place where Tums are provided at every booth and sour beer runneth like very non viscous liquid.  Beer geeks run wild with their faces a little more screwed up than they normally are and all are in good spirits.

Many members of The Wagon were in attendance, as well as brewers, enthusiasts, groupies and not too many snobs, and all were brought together because of the love of a very special category of beer.  The fun started right in the front tasting room where all of the Avery Sours were on tap, including the 2nd Annual Sour Fest Blend (super sour), Vogelbekdieren (AKA, the platypus, Avery’s first ever sour blend), a couple from the barrel aged series, and everyone’s favorite: Fred’s Mom.  Now I don’t know Fred’s Mom, but after tasting this spicy dark sour beer aged in red wine barrels, I would definitely like to… intimately (Sorry Fred).
As we moved on through the brewery things just kept on getting better.  In the next room you could find more from Avery as well as Boulevard, Bull & Bush, Cascade, Cigar City, Crooked Stave and Golden City, among others.  Many props were given to Cascade and Cigar City as they not only had some of the best beers at the festival, but it is practically impossible to get them here in Colorado.  Cascade shipped out their Apricot Sour, their Kriek and a delicious barrel aged blonde with blackberries, called Nightfall.  Our own Ginger Pelz was heard saying the Nightfall was one of her favorites at the whole festival.  Cigar City took a big bite out of the palate with their Vuja De: a dark farmhouse ale aged with currants, elderberry, hibiscus and lemon zest. Look out for the Deja Vu next year.

Thanks @COBeerWeek

Moving on through the event, one might or might not notice the great smelling food carts on the way to the next and biggest room, depending on personal munchie status. The last section of the festival was my personal favorite, as I really agreed with what Grimm Brothers Brewhouse and Pumphouse Brewery came out with.  I can’t not mention that Jolly Pumpkin, Sam Adams, The Bruery, Twisted Pine, Lost Abby and many more also brought out some great brew.  Many people’s favorite was the Lost Abby Anti-Ox, which was an interesting sour blended with acai, raspberry, cherry and coconut water; it was very interesting. My personal favorite from the festival by Grimm Brothers was dubbed the Once Upon A Time.  It is a traditional Lambic, entirely fermented in wine barrels from the DeBeque Canyon Winery. I am so glad these two Colorado fermented beverage companies worked together to create, in my opinion, one of the most balanced beers at the festival.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget when Andy Sparhawk ( guy and BJCP certified judge) ran up to me, and everyone else around, talking quite enthusiastically about a Cinnamon Toast Crunch beer!  The unassumingly named Sour Barrel Springtime Saison 2010 from Pumphouse did indeed taste and smell exactly like the famous cereal.  The good news for anyone who missed the festival is that you just have to bring a bowl of it to the Avery tap room next time you go and it’ll be like you were actually there with us!

Lastly was the bottle table, where there were some excellent offerings from breweries that didn’t have anything in kegs.  Trinity showed up with the tartest beer I’ve ever had, called Old Growth (usually available at GABF if you’re interested).  Jackie O’s Brewery out of Ohio brought another of my favorites, the Brown Recluse, which of course was a sour brown ale.  I also learned something new that day: people actually live in Nebraska AND they brew good beer. Nebraska Brewing Co. showed up with a nice Apricot and black pepper saison that was aged in Chardonnay barrels.

In conclusion, there is no way I can talk about every amazing beer that was there, but I want to thank all the breweries that showed up as well as anyone who bought tickets.  Other members from The Wagon mentioned that they really enjoyed the intimate atmosphere (only 450 tickets sold) and were heard to say they had a blast.  Everyone agreed that the breweries really pulled out all the stops and brought their best quality beers.  We can expect the same thing for next year so make sure to get your tickets early and we will all see you there!

Highlights according to:

Bess Dougherty

Hands down the beers are what we all came for but one of my favorite parts of any festival are the people. The saying beer people are good people is so true and it is events like this that remind me of it.  Another one of my favorite parts of days such as sourfest day is the word vomit  spewing out of people’s mouths. One of my personal favorites was Frankie: “It just sort of punches you in the face.” Kaleigh: “Just like a real love child!”  Much like many other Wagon folks, Anti-Ox from Lost Abbey was among my favorites along with Tart Lychee from New Belgium, ExPortation from Sierra Nevada and Brain of the Turtle from Trinity (it really does taste like brain-KP).  All in all this is an event not to be missed and I for one am already waiting on edge for next year!

Ginger Pelz

Sourfest spoiled me. I loved the quality of beers that brewers brought to the event. I loved the fact that it was small and intimate (only 450 or so tickets sold). I loved that Avery was chock-full of beer nerds. I like my sours super tart and because of that, my favorite beers of the day were The Lost Abbey’s Anti-Ox and Cascade Brewing’s Nightfall. Of the Colorado sours at the festival, I’m choosing Avery’s Fred’s Mom as the stand-out. Kudos to all the breweries that provided their tasty tart beer at Avery’s Sourfest this year. I had a blast.

Jim Halligan

Anti-ox and lychee tart win the award for most visually appealing. Marron Acidifie had to be my favorite along with Pumphouse Saison. Some beers seemed very young (won’t name, but looking forward to how they mature and sour up). Most fun is trying to hunt for what you like – so many different varieties of sour. Have to give it up to breweries like Upland- even though they didn’t have the best sour, in the presence of artisans like The Bruery and Russian River, their product was still very strong – I hope to see more of the new guys next yr.

Billy Broas

Even though all of these beers were sour their flavors were all over the map. Some would make the hardiest sour-drinker pucker while some had just a gentle tartness. My “best brewery award” goes to Cascade for their trio of outstanding beers. Those guys are absolute masters. My “best beer” award goes to The Lost Abbey Anti-Ox. Coconut water – who knew?

Jess Hunter

It’s love.  Upon love. Upon love of beer.  A festival of love and I couldn’t get enough of it.  Walking through the catacombs of Avery’s barrel room gave me chills to see their new stuff waiting to wow us the next time we open a bottle, sit at the tap room, or share a beer on draft at a supporting pub.  And who better to share this love fest with friends and fellow knowledgeable beer obsessors.  I, too, am on the Lost Abbey Anti-Ox team as one of my favorites.  And I believe I was giddy to see The Bruery’s Marron Acidifie running on the draft, as I have only had it in bottle.  I loved Allagash Brewing’s showing at SourFest with Confluence Ale (dry-hopped golden ale with Belgian and wild yeasts) and their Interlude (Belgian farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with Brett).  After missing Funky Cougar (sour Belgian barrel-aged for 1.1 years) by 15 minutes during American Craft Beer Week, it was a gem to finally enjoy it.  Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja and Maracaibo Especial (love this beer) made me smile.  Cheers to Upland Brewing for their Blueberry Lambic and everyone was in a hub-bub about Trinity’s Brain of the Turtle–if you could get it before it ran dry.  Can’t wait till next year–are you marking your calendar, too?

Thank you to Jess, PJ, Billy and Bess for taking the pictures in the slide show above.

About Josh Rapp

Josh is a beer and whiskey enthusiast. He is a home brewer and a long time member of the Denver Whiskey Club and Denver Homebrew Club. He also makes Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey for money.