SourFest, for me and a couple dozen others, did not begin at Avery. Instead, our journey started at Rackhouse Pub in Denver. In his infinite wisdom, owner Chris Rippe decided to organize a bus that would tote festival goers to and from Boulder, allowing everyone the luxury of drinking their fill without worrying about driving… and for a few roadies to be consumed.
We arrived at Avery Brewing Company about 45 minutes before the doors opened for the start of SourFest. The weather was particularly nice while we were mingling outside the quintessential Boulder brewery. The extra time allowed for two very important things: consuming massive amounts of carbohydrates and mapping out a plan of attack. 27 breweries were present to pour 59 sours ranging from the tart Berliner Weiss to the mouth-puckering Lambic. After a quick read-through of the beer list we noticed several standouts - Cascade, Upland, Cambridge, Crooked Stave, and (of course) Avery.
Once we were through the door we grabbed our glasses and headed straight for the bottle section on the back patio where Cascade was pouring Blueberry, Sang Noir, Sang Royal, and The Vine right along side Crooked Stave’s Persica.
I have fond memories of my first beer from Cascade, Bourbonic Plague, during the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting during GABF this past year. That being said, I was holding out hope that the rest of their beers weren’t palate wreckers like the dark porter aged in oak, wine, and Bourbon barrels. The Vine was a very pleasant place to begin. A blend of soured Triple, Belgian Quad, and Golden Ale fermented with the fresh pressings of white grapes - this beer was tart and vinous.
We enjoyed Sang Royal and Blueberry as well, but Sang Noir (an oak aged sour red with bing and sour pie cherries) was absolutely beautiful. Loaded with flavors of dark fruit, sour cherry, and bourbon, Sang Noir became an early favorite.
Crooked Stave is rapidly becoming one of the hottest sour beer producers in the country and they came to play with a new beer - Persica Wild Wild Brett, a Sour Golden Ale aged in oak barrels with peaches for 9 months. This is to be the next release in a series of sours offered only to Cellar Reserve members, so this table got hit pretty hard. Persica may have smelled like feet after they’d run through a field of flowers (thanks to the Brettanomyces), but the taste was clean and loaded with peaches. Next stop, Upland.
Another brewery that’s been gaining significant traction in the world of sours is Upland Brewing Company of Indiana, who brought their Sour Reserve and Raspberry Lambic. Sour Reserve, a Geueze, is created by blending batches of their own unfruited lambic. The flavor started more tart than sour, but steadily built as you sipped.
Easily the most distinguishable beer of the festival due to the intense fuchsia color, the Raspberry Lambic was a completely different beast. This fruit-bomb tasted like an alcoholic fruit smoothie, with chunks of sediment lingering near the bottom of the glass. I loved it, but it was a little too acid heavy for me to go back for a second pour.
In an attempt to recharge our palates we hit the Instant Karma Palate Cleanse station. Sadly, it just tasted like water.
Another standout beer at SourFest was Grimm Bros. Brett Bock. This was actually one of my favorite beers from Avery’s Strong Ale Fest a few months back. Inoculated with Brettanomyces and aged in wine barrels for 12 months, this isn’t your average Bock. Sadly, it didn’t taste quite as sour as it had at Strong Ale… but I can’t rule out that my palate may have been shot by this point.
I honestly don’t know how it took me so long to grab a pour of Avery’s Bolder Weiss (yes, Bolder not Boulder), their interpretation on the classic Berliner Weiss. As with any Avery interpretation, they had to make it their own… so they added Brettanomyces and laid it to rest in oak barrels for six months. A little higher in ABV than the style dictates at 5.5%, Bolder Weiss is bold, tart, and extremely refreshing. Truth be told I had 4 pours of this sour before we headed back to Denver.
Avery also released a 3rd Annual SourFest Blend, a light sour blended from 3 beers.
All three Eremitas (Avery’s tap room only sours) were available and we were smart enough to grab a vertical (I, II, and III left to right).
Having had our fill of Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus-fermented beers, we took to lounging on the front patio as we waited for our ride.
But just as we began to board, PJ Hoberman of Denver off the Wagon and Rachael Burrel, Avery’s Events Coordinator, began carrying 3 palates of beer onto the bus. Apparently we weren’t done drinking just yet, with several cases of Avery’s India Pale Ale, Joe’s Pilsner, and White Rascal to consume on the 40 minute ride home.
With my first SourFest in the books, I can attest that it is truly one of the most fun and unique beer festivals I’ve encountered… and I go to a lot of beer festivals. Upon pulling into the parking lot of Rackhouse Pub, I thought the night was over and I could feel the gravitational pull of my couch for a nice long nap. We chose to go into the bar to grab a glass of water before heading home. What I actually ordered was “a glass of water and a mound of bacon”. It was at this point that the night got weird.
And then Chris Rippe, owner of Rackhouse, busted out a few bottles from his cellar - The Bruery Autumn Maple, ‘12 Firestone Walker Parabola, and ‘09 Left Hand St. Vrain. I have no idea how you turn that down… so we stayed a while longer.
Thank you to Chris Rippe of Rackhouse Pub and Joe Osborne and Rachael Burrel of Avery Brewing Company for making this such an awesome event.