There are five basic flavours that we detect on our tongue: salt, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami (savoury). Not all of them, however, have been using the same PR firm! Sweetness has had it all over the opposition in recent times. And for good reason as, at an evolutionary level, sweetness tells us we are on to something packed full of energy - exactly the food you need when running away from lions on the Savanna; less important when sitting on the sofa watching Animal Planet!
Sour taste, on the other hand, sends us an important signal that we are about to swallow some acid. Sounds bad when you say it like that, but it can indicate that we are getting some essential nutrients like Ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C.
Recently however, sour has got a new PR team and they are using fermented beverages like kombucha and beer to win back lovers of tart.
Sour beers are not new, but their popularity has increased dramatically in recent years thanks to the crafty boutique brewers looking for an angle that differentiates them from the mainstream multinationals.
There are two common ways to make sour beer. One uses yeasts like Brettanomyces (Brett to its best friends!) which naturally produce acids during fermentation. You might be familiar with the beer styles like Lambic and Saison which rely on Brett-like yeasts. The second uses bacteria. The same types of bacteria used to make yoghurt, like Lactobacillus for example.
In the business of brewing, the latter method using bacteria is called “kettle souring” (for reasons I won’t bore you with), and it is the method most favoured by brewers for a couple of main reasons – it’s quick and it’s easy to control the level of tartness.
The main kettle soured styles about town are the Berliner and the Gose (pronounced “goes-uh” like in Rosa). Often you will find them with a fruit addition, which is quite traditional. The fruit flavours working so well with the acidic punch of the underlying beer.
Sour beers are great thirst quenchers and are well worth searching out. Maybe us Kiwis can make “sour-as” our new “sweet-as, bro”?