A Collection of a Variety of Skull and Bones Sour Beers

Last week Bristol Brewing announced the release of remaining bottled Skull and Bones sour beers available in their tap room. For many that remember this series, it’s a blast from Bristol’s past. Several years ago announcements of releasing sours, Edge City beers, XXX versions of their standard lineup, and firkins filled the tap room with craft beer nerds looking for a taste of this local brewery’s newest creation. Most of these beers have since been retired.

When Skull and Bones beers were first released, sours were fairly new to being made in America and Bristol was among the first in the country to succeed. To set the stage for other happenings in CO with sour beers, Peter Bouckaert was hired at New Belgium in ’96 and the brewery bought their first French oak barrels to start their sour project in ’97. Two years later the first sours were released, and in ’04 La Folie was “born.”Around that time is when the Skull and Bones sours were brewed. Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing Co was still brewing at Bristol, Troy Casey of AC Golden was employed there while finishing college, and John Schneider of Black Fox and now Dry Dock was climbing the Bristol ranks. Yester even published an article in New Brewer Magazine about “Colorado’s Wood Age Renaissance” and mentioned the sour project headed by Tucker Mitchell at Bristol. The article can still be viewed today via Bristol’s website (after a little searching).

A Cuvee Bottle in Bristol’s New Tap Room

Throughout the mid to late ’00s, Skull and Bones beers were released in the tap room. These beers were experimental and cutting edge. From Jason’s 2005 article, “The thing that makes these beers unique is Bristol collects microbes annually from ripe wild raspberries. They may be the only brewery using local wild microbes for producing sours.” Ken Andrews, Microbiologist at Bristol Brewing, was able to cultivate wild yeast strains off of Cheyenne Canon’s wild raspberries to ferment the sours in a similar fashion to wine. The bottles were never labeled except for taped on scraps of paper denoting the beer and year brewed. Some of them have varying numbers that indicate milliliters of honey used to bottle condition as they were experimenting with affects of different sized additions.

There were at least eight beers in the series including Oud Bruin, Grand Cru, Flanders Red, Cuvée, and the highest sought after of them all, Foxy. In 2007 the Cuvée won a silver in the American-Style Sour Ale category at GABF, ahead of New Belgium’s Le Terrior. These beers remain in beer lover’s cellars, sparingly popping up in bottle shares, inspiring new homebrew recipes via memory, and being reviewed online when bottles are finally enjoyed.

For the first time ever, you can purchase bottles of Skull and Bones beers for consumption in the tap room. Last week their award winning Cuvée was available. For only $15 you can get this “vintage” piece of Bristol’s sour past. They will also be releasing the Oud Bruin and Flanders Red throughout the summer. The only question left is whether Bristol will now renew this experimental side in their new location. Until then, I’ll continue ordering these coveted bottles when I visit Ivywild, they are fantastic.

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Categories: Beer