As a self-proclaimed beer nerd, sour beers are one of my true passions.
I have spent the past several years (and way too much of my income) searching far and wide looking for the next great acidic brew and my journey always seems to come back to one of my favorite places on earth. Portland, Ore., Home of Cascade Brewing. Ron Gansberg1 is the mad scientist behind the magical place aptly nick-named, “the house of sour.” Gansberg’s hard work has pulled in three medals from the Great American Beer Festival, countless die hard fans and the reputation of one of the countries foremost sour beer breweries.
Cascade’s sour beers all have a very distinct taste that differs from other beers of similar style. That difference comes form the unique process and the amount of time that go into each beer. My inner home brewer would love nothing more then to spend the next few paragraphs delving into the specifics of how Cascade’s process differs from most but I will try to keep it brief.
Using a combination of regular brewers yeast 2 and bacteria 3 the brews are allowed to age and develop over time in oak barrels. Most brewers will let their beers develop for months or even a year in the barrel before bottling. Many of Cascades brews spend almost three years in the barrel before they are put into bottles. This time and effort that go into each beer is the reason I have to beg barrow and steal to get my friends in Portland to head over to the barrel house every time Cascade releases a new beer.
Recently, Cascade has made a slight change in there brew process for a select few beers. With the addition of an oak foudre4 to the barrel room, Gansberg has a new weapon in his arsenal. The first beer to come from this new brew toy was Foudre Project #1. This limited edition northwest style sour ale is a blend of triple ales aged for up to 16 months in the new foudre. In addition to being limited, it was only a brewery-only release.
As I poured the hazy golden liquid into my glass a bright white head develops that dissipates into a few scattered bubbles fairly quickly. As I raise the glass to my nose, the first thing I smell is a clean and sharp lactic character. It definitely smells sour but not overpowering. There is also a fruity sweetness that comes through along with the lasting smell of oak that are both very inviting.
The first sip of the beer is acidic (as to be expected) but it is not overpowering like many sour beers can be. It is a bright and sharp acidity that appears quickly but is then met with a very interesting candy like sweetness. This sweetness carries through to the finish where it is joined by a pretty distinct tart green apple finish.5 The transformation from sharp tartness to the lingering sweet and fruity finish is really impressive. It is a very clean beer that dances beautifully from sour, to sweet and then to fruity all while the subtle oak notes linger in the finish.