Now, more than ever, is the season for sour beers. Of course, they're perfect all year round, but when the humidity is high and refreshment is at its most necessary, it's hard to ignore the tartness of a cold sour. We tried a couple of rippers, have a read of our thoughts below:
Sailors Grave – Peach Melba Pavlova Cream Ale
On Burnley Street, near where we live in Richmond, is a plaque commemorating the place of the birth of the eponymous Melba (Dame Nellie) in 1861. What then would have been a corking example of period Melbourne architecture is now a modern-but-not-too-modern discount furniture showroom, resplendent with half-price couches and grey stucco walls. It's fortunate that Melba had the dessert (and this beer) to carry on the legacy, because saving 20% off recliners with cupholders just isn't the tribute our most noted soprano deserves.
The beer itself is a perfect balance of the sweet, creamy dessert on which it's based, and the sour fruitiness of modern soured ales. It could easily take the lactose-heavy base dessert and let that overshadow the subtlety of the peach, but it doesn't happen and that's to the benefit of the beer. A creamy ale doesn't strike as an ideal summer quencher but it works because everything is balanced. The nose is just a waft of sweet peach, with flavours of sour peach and raspberry offset but just enough creaminess to give it a full body but without becoming cloying. It's a real winner, there's no doubt.
Mikkeller – Raspberry Coffee Berliner Weisse
Mikkeller are the King Gizzard of the beer world, producing high concept art beers at speeds that dazzle and confuse and make us think there must be some sort of devil contract at play. This new sour comes out of their San Diego brewery, which appears to have the same warp speed beer magicians as their Danish compatriots. The San Diego brewery appears, at least at this stage, to be producing beers that might be more suited to the American palate. That is to say, there appears to be a lot of canned ales with a focus on drinkablity. This is no exception. The raspberry is the star of the show here, providing wafts of sweet fruit on the nose and a combination of sweet and tart flavours that makes raspberry such a great choice for this beer style. It's certainly reminiscent of their 'Ich Bin' series of fun fruited Berliners. The only issue here is the distinct lack of coffee. It feels buried in the mix, and difficult to locate, like when the bass player just isn't up to scratch so the producer just makes them almost inaudible. Surely the coffee's quality wasn't in question here, so perhaps it's just that the subtlety of that type of flavour struggles to compete in this style of beer. Regardless, it's a touch disappointing because that seems like a potentially very interesting juxtaposition. As it is, this beer is a very good raspberry Berliner weisse.
Hop Nation – Acid Head Sour Pale Ale
On the back of a very good showing at the GABS Hottest 100 (with a top 10 placing for their Jedi Juice NEIPA), Hop Nation are continuing to push through with modern styles of beer and a focus on balancing flavour with pure drinkability. Where Jedi Juice was a dead-on NEIPA example, Acid Head is a slightly blurrier category, sitting somewhere between sessionable pale ale and a true sour. The sourness is light, particularly compared with something like the Wolf of the Willows Acidulus II (the very top of the tree for local sour pales), but this just serves to heighten its strength as a session beer. The light tartness, the tropical notes from new world hops, and the light body make this the least 'interesting' of the three beers here, but certainly this doesn't diminish its quality in any way. Hop Nation have gone for a beer that complements a hot afternoon in the backyard, swinging in a hammock or whatever people like to do these days. It's a session sour that does what it sets out to do. A four pack of these would be a very easy time.