2012 Boulder SourFest – a puckered place for good beer and good people.

Boulder SourFest.  It’s a magical place wedged between October’s Great American Beer Festival and January’s Big Beers Festival.  It’s a place where the Russian River table–pouring blessed beers–stands sans a line. It’s a mecca for beer aficionados to congregate and proclaim the beer gospel.  And after selling out in a mere 3 minutes this year, entry tickets were even more coveted.

When the Rackhouse Pub bus pulled up in front of Avery Brewing Company on Saturday, June 2nd, we emptied out, giggling like kids, excited to try the treasures inside.  The bus proved beneficial on multiple fronts: one, we didn’t have to drive; two, we were in the front of the line at 11:20am; three, we shared beer gossip on the bus, and from Justin Lloyd of Star Bar’s tip, Cascade was pouring and it was pouring fast.

So when the gates opened, we bypassed the beautiful array of 10 Avery beers in the front, we beelined passed the beautiful barrel room showcasing some of our favorite sours, and began our laps at Cascade (out of Portland, Oregon).  They were pouring Blueberry (oak-aged sour blonde aged with fresh blueberries), Sang Noir (oak-aged sour red with bing and sour pie cherries), Sang Royal (barrel aged sour red aged with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes), and The Vine (oak aged blonde/triple blend with fresh pressed white grapes).  By the time we were on our final lap of Cascade, the line was cinnamon-twisting into itself.  We grabbed a quick Karma Palate Cleanser (brilliant idea, Avery, brilliant idea), and headed back in for more.

More included Crooked Stave’s Persica Wild Wild Brett (aged 9 months in oak barrels with peaches, Indiana’s Upland  Brewing Sour Reserve Blend #2 (blend of three lambics, inspired by the Gueuze style), Lost Abbey’s Cuvee de Tomme (bourbon barrel aged with sour cherry and Brett), Framboise de Amarosa (barrel aged Raspberry sour), and Red Poppy (Oak aged Brown Ale with sour cherries). Back in for another Karma Palate Cleanser and returned for Sierra Nevada’s Anything Gose. Gose has been an intriguing favorite style of mine this year–a rare style of beer almost extinct and is different than Gueuze.  Redstone Meadery surprised many in the crowd with the Black Folie, blending Redstone Black Raspberry Nectar and New Belgium’s La Folie.  Then it was on to try favorites from Odell, Russian River, Grimm Brothers, Crabtree, Dry Dock, Great Divide, and AC Golden.  And while we did a vertical of Eremita, we played an awkward game of cornhole with friends.  The skies must have received the memo of this awesome festival, because the weather cooperated perfectly.  Friends reunited and geeked out over the thing that brought us together: amazing sour beer.

Jensen Cummings:

My alarm is set for 9:00 AM, but as visions of sugarplums and brettanomyces dance through my head, I leap out of bed at 7:00 AM , like a kid on Christmas morning! I may have even blurted out…”SOURFEST!” The 3rd Annual SourFest in at Avery’s Brewery in Boulder brings together a serious powerhouse of beer aficionados. With our powers combine, we definitely form some kind of super hero, just not exactly sure if we go Voltron or Captain Planet. As I stand in line eagerly awaiting the onslaught of wild yeast, I am compelled to take up a mission of gut busting proportions. I will taste all 59 sour, funky, wild, tart, yeasty, pucker, biting, grippy, gnarly and just downright de-ricious beers!  Now, the volunteers pouring the beers seem to be on a mission of their own, to thwart my mission. They are pouring healthy 2oz pours which forces me to do two things that are not in my nature, if I want to achieve my goal. First, to ask for LESS beer and second, that if they sneak more than a half ounce or so in my glass to…I can’t even say it…to pour out some of my beer once I’ve gotten a solid taste. At many turns I felt like Odysseus being lured in by the Sirens, as friends, colleagues and the like are scattered in my path and I must fight my social nature to power through trough after trough of sour goodness. Many Good Samaritans aided my along my journey as many reached out to me and said, “try this…have you tasted this…you got to take a sip.” I, not my poor stomach, am proud to say that I achieved my goal and here are my favorites. I couldn’t pick the normal top 5, so here are my top 6 in no particular order:

  • Bad Apple by Avery (most unique of the top beers)
  • Dark Kriek by AC Golden (that’s right, Coors)
  • Persica Wild Wild Brett by Crooked Stave (you knew they’d be in the mix)
  • Red Poppy by Lost Abbey (duh!)
  • Sang Noir by Cascade (longest line, but worth the wait)
  • Sauer Power by Crabtree (surprise beer of the day)

Chris Washenberger:

Another Sourfest. Awesome. I have attended all of these and while the beers are, for the most part, excellent there are some really outstanding beers that I think are changing the landscape a bit. At the first Sourfest, I was still in the grip of the Avery/Lost Abbey/Russian River triumvirate. Their beers always show well and still do. Their depth of knowledge and experience with these types of beers is so apparent when you taste the recognizable profiles of each one. Sometimes I feel like I write them off a bit but really question why when I have a chance to try them again. The last two Sourfests have brought some new flavors (to me anyway) most notably, Cascade Brewing (Sweettart dry finish!) and Crooked Stave (butyric acid and ripe fruit!). Both of these breweries have a consistent set of flavors and aromas that tie their beers together and I think it is really critical that they do. There were a lot of breweries there that made really nice beers but you can tell that sours are not their focus and while tasty, they feel like an experiment. That is great and makes the fest fun but I guess I am just excited to see what comes next from the places that really focus on the stuff. This one is just a few hours past but I am excited for next year already.

Jim Halligan:

Sourfest is always one of my favorite beer fests for two reasons. Number one, everyone seems as though they were very lucky to get a ticket, so you get that eyes-glazed-over Charlie-at-the-Chocolate-Factory vibe from every attendee. You can’t try to create that, and it’s amazing. Number two, the obvious answer being the beer, but more specifically, it is the evolution of the beer over last year. Sours are so dynamic and one of the areas of the beer culture where there is a great concentration of innovation and experimenting – not that that isn’t happening anywhere else in the beer world, but for sour beers it is definitely hitting a stride.

Favorites of the day were Crooked Stave Persicus (funk!), Cascade The Vine (not to mention creating my own blend of their Blueberry and Sang Noir – dubbed Blue Night from a tip we got when visiting the barrel house in Portland). Just a note: Cascade is certainly well known in the world of sours and they make magical stuff, but for whatever reason, everyone had a huge boner for them this year vs. the last. I blame it on the limited bottle supply, but it seems to me maybe the secret has gotten out that uh, they make really good beer. One beer that really stood out from the rest was Crabtree’s lacto-induced Sauer Power, which was low in booze, but was different than anything I have ever tasted in a good way. Grapes of Wrath was certainly solid as well, as is everything Avery does. Overall, without question a good fucking time for any lover of sours, and as for me I’ll be back to drinking them after the walls of my intestines regenerate a bit. Until then, lots of bourbon.

PJ Hoberman:

Third annual SourFest. Thus far, each year has been pretty different, and each year has been pretty awesome. We made a solid decision to take a bus to the fest this year. This provided two advantages:

1. I didn’t have to drive.
2. We were there early, and therefore were able to do laps on Cascade before the rush.

Some favorites of mine included The Vine from Cascade, Crooked Stave’s Persica Wild Wild Brett, Crabtrees’s Sour Power, and most of the Avery lineup. And per usual, better than the beer – or at least equivalent to – were the people. People I don’t get to see except at beer festivals, but at every beer festival we pick up where we left off.

Shellie Simons:

Oh Sour Fest – I love you so.  The last three years you have both delighted me and caused me to live on Alka Seltzer for two days.  I believe my favorite of this year was the Sauer Power from Crabtree.  Despite my horrifying, I mean adorable, pucker on my face I loved it.  This year my surprise was the Grimm Brother’s Brett Bock.  Although, not sure why I would be surprised.  I love Grimm Brother’s and all their wares.  I also really enjoyed The Vine from Cascade and Saison D’Funk from Dry Dock (bonus points for being super duper fun to say).  As always, the highlight of my day is seeing faces that I love and laughing so hard I nearly pee myself.  Jim Halligan’s “six-pack ass” will be stuck in my head for quite sometime. Disturbingly so. This year, I got the added bonus and honor of devirginizing someone.  Also, I took them to their very first Sour Fest.  HEY-YO!

Ginger Pelz:

This year’s SourFest was another year of awesomeness. What do I like about SourFest? The brews are totes tasty, it’s not super crowded, and the most amazing beer-loving people from the Denver/Boulder area come out to play. Once again, Avery put on an amazing event and once again, Avery brought out some delicious sours themselves. Although I didn’t hit up the Avery brews until the end of the day (when my taste buds were already pretty shot), I really liked Ross’ Mom, Eremita II and the SourFest blend… which… were… my… faves from last year, if I remember correctly. For my beer faves o’ the day, the number one spot goes to Blue Night from Cascade. Where was this one, you might ask? Well, Jim and I learned about this mixture when we visited the Cascade barrel house last year. It is a 50/50 blend of Sang Noir and Blueberry which makes one tangy treat. Beyond that, I also loved Cascade’s The Vine, Grimm Brothers Brett Bock (always a fave) and Redstone Meadery’s Black Folie. I did, however, get cranky at the long line at Cascade. Overall, the day was a blast. We learned that Jim’s butt feels a lot like a loaf of bread, purple and blue mustaches are always fun to have on hand, and Pinche Tacos and Cards Against Humanity are a great way to round out a long day of drinking sour beer. ‘Til next year!

Josh Rapp:

It was the same old same old from sour fest this year.  By that I mean it was a walk down Awesome Lane in place called Awesome Town, AKA Avery Brewing Co.  When you mix a lot of fun people and a set number of tickets sold, even though they could sell many more, you get the perfect environment for drinking infected beer.  For me, there were two stand out beers this year.  The first one was from Upland Brewing Company out of Indiana who brought their Sour Reserve Blend #2.  This one was special because of range of flavor it offered.  It was more than the usual a sour punch in the face by starting out tart, then got fruity and finally finishing your palate off with some funk.  I remember last year when we had a Cinnamon Toast Crunch beer.  Since then my brain has tried to pick out sweet cereal flavors from sour beers and did so again at the festival.  Crabtree Brewing brought a mango smelling fruit loop flavored sour bomb called Sauer Power that really knocked my socks off.  The aroma was so sweet and dare I say, “loopy” that it almost made me forget how tart the brew was while drinking it.  Cheers and I hope to see you all next year.

About Jess Hunter

Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.