Recap: Avery Sourfest 2012

Avery's barrel room

Armed with a pocketful of Tums, a camera, and two tickets, Lefty and I made a trek to Boulder on Saturday for the third annual SourFest. We arrived about 45 minutes before opening, and there was already a line of over 100 people. As we stood in line, a bearded brewer (redundant) walked up to me and introduced himself as Ron Gansberg, the brewmaster and blender from Cascade Brewing in Portland, OR. He was wondering if I brewed for Lost Abby since I wore a Lost Abby brewers shirt. What a way to start Sourfest! I unfortunately had to say no but did get to talk to Ron for awhile. This was his first time coming to SourFest, and he brought four beers with him. Since Cascade Brewing does not participate in GABF anymore, I was pretty excited to get the chance to sample some of these rare Oregon treats! 27 breweries brought beer for the event with 49 beers on tap and 10 bottled beers.

The early line
Ratman (center) of Ratebeer fame was one of the first in line to get his glass at Avery's tasting room.
Ron Gansberg, brewmaster and blender of Cascade Brewery

We were one of the first people to enter and immediately made a beeline to the Cascade serving area. Within 10 minutes, the line of 3-4 people turned into a line of 50 for the Cascade beers.  Lefty and I were able to sample each of the four Cascade Beers that included Blueberry: an oak aged sour blonde aged with fresh blueberries, Sang Noir: an oak aged sour red with bing and sour pie cherries, Sang Royal: a barrel aged sour red with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and The Vine: an oak aged blonde/triple blend with fresh pressed white grapes. All were pretty fantastic to say the least. We were also able to sneak in a taste of the new Crooked Stave Persica, a Brett beer oak aged with peaches. This beer will certainly be sought after by the beer trader community.

Lefty getting a taste of Cascade's Sang Noir.
Cascade Blueberry Sour
Crooked Stave Persica

Our next stop was for the Lost Abbey and Upland Brewery beers.  For those not familiar with Upland, they have been a brewery in Bloomington, Indiana, since 1998. They brew many different styles, but their sour ales are what sets this Midwest brewery apart from the rest. Charles Stanley, Upland's marketing manager, was able to answer some of my questions about their brewery. They currently have eight styles of fruited sour ales ranging from classic peach and cherry lambics to some more unusual fruits like kiwi and persimmon. Most of their sours are very small batches and can only be bought during a small window period or by a lottery system. They brought their Raspberry Lambic and the Sour Reserve Blend #2, a blend of three lambics, inspired by the Gueuze style. Both beers blew my mind by their complexity, color, vibrant flavors, and clean finish.

Lost Abbey brought three amazing sours I was already familiar with: Cuvee de Tomme, Framboise de Amarosa, and Red Poppy.

Upland Raspberry Lambic and Sour Reserve Blend #2

Our final and most lengthy stop was in the main Avery barrel room and tasting room sampling mostly Colorado sours. Avery represented with ten sours. They had some of the most interesting and creative sours. Bad Apple was a pale Belgian sour in oak barrels for one year with Granny Smith apples for 6 months. They had three different Eremita sours. Grapes of Wrath was a strong sour made with Cab Sav grapes, aged for two years.

AC Golden brought four sours including Dark Kriek: a dark sour with Colorado sour cherries, De La Vigne aged with merlot grapes, a two year oak aged pale sour called Imitation, and Syrah Sour aged with Syrah grapes.

Avery's barrel room
An equally packed tasting room

Throughout the four hour festival, I was able to chat with many brewers and beer industry folks. Adam Glaser, new head brewer for Fort Collins Brewery, brought an interesting beer named Sour Kraut Berliner Weisse. Kjell Wygant, brewer for Rockyard, brought a Berliner Weisse and few of his handmade chairs constructed from bourbon barrels.  Check them out next time your in Castle Rock. They are a work of art! I met for the first time Brian Lutz, head brewer for the soon to be open West Flanders Brewing Co. He has brewed for RedFish New Orleans Brewhouse, Left Hand, and Oskar Blues and helped create well known Colorado beers including Dale's Pale Ale, Gordon, and Old Chub. He is very excited to bring a Belgium style brewery to Boulder. I also talked at length with John Carlson, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild, about his upcoming two volume book on the history of beer in Colorado.  He will be speaking in Vail sometime in September about his book, and three breweries are making early historic Colorado beers for this event.  We'll have a more detailed article about this event sometime this summer.

John Carlson (left) excited about the history of Colorado beer with Lefty.
C. Springs boys: Brian Fortinberry, owner of Front Range BBQ, with Travis and Lefty
A brief Tums break

Sourfest 2012 was indeed a success.  We were both thankful for the opportunity to experience a very special and well run festival celebrating the artistry, creativity, and time it takes to make these special beers.  I was only able to sample 30 beers so I am sure I missed quite a few gems, but here are my favorite sours from the festival in no particular order.

Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme: Bourbon barel aged with sour cherries and Brettanomyces
Upland Raspberry Lambic: Belgian style ale aged in oak.
Upland Sour Reserve Blend #2: Blend of three lambics, inspired by the Gueuze style
Cascade Sang Noir: Oak aged sour red with bing and sour pie cherries
New Belgium Le Terrior: Amarillo dry hopped sour ale
AC Golden Dark Kriek: Dark Sour aged with Colorado sour cherries
Avery Emerita II: single batch sour blonde infused with apricots and peaches
Great Divide Bretty Yeti: Yeti with brettanomyces
Grimm Brothers: Brett Bock: Aged doppelbock conditioned with Brettanomyces
Redstone Meadery Black Folie: Redstone's Raspberry Nectar and New Belgium's La Folie blend

Favorite beer of Sourfest:
Cascade Blueberry: oak aged sour blonde with fresh blueberries

Cascade's Blueberry Sour, a pure delight!
Joe Osborne

A special thanks goes out to Joe Osborne, marketing director for Avery,  for letting us come experience the magic of Avery's Sourfest.

- - -

Stay up to date with Focus on the Beer. You can receive email updates and join us on our Facebook page.

BeerEric Steen