When Bridger’s Bottle Shop opened in March, general manager Erica Pyles made it her goal to stock the city’s best selection of sour beer.
Sour styles get tangy flavor from wild yeast and bacteria, and are some of the best and most complex brews in the world according to Pyles, a certified cicerone.
“But they’re definitely an acquired taste,” she said.
Pyles believes that Kansas City beer drinkers are getting more adventurous when it comes to sours. In June, tickets to Bridger’s Bottle Shop’s first sour beer dinner sold out. Bar patrons are more willing to try tangy brews, partly because the hometown brewery has started producing more of them.
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Last year, Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Love Child No. 3 won a gold medal in the wood- and barrel-aged sour beer category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
Last week, the brewery released Hibiscus Gose (pronounced gose-uh), a lightly salty sour that gets its pink color from hibiscus flowers. It’s one of the beers that will be available at Bridger’s Bottle Shop’s Day of Sours on Sept. 6.
Every hour on the hour between noon and 4 p.m., Pyles will tap a keg of sour or funky beer. The tap list includes New Belgium La Folie, Boulevard Saison-Brett, Mikkeller SpontanPeach and Prairie Artisan Ales Funky Gold Mosaic.
Other festivities at the Day of Sours include a pig roast and, at 1 p.m., beer samples from local homebrewer Michael Crane, who is working on opening a brewery in Raytown.
I’m fairly new to the sour beer style, so I was excited when Pyles invited me to Bridger’s Bottle Shop for a tasting last week. The tasting taught me that tangy beers can vary greatly in appearance, aroma and taste — and that most of them are pretty good.
Note: All of these beers are available at Bridger’s. The prices shown are for bottles to go.
Original Ritterguts Gose from Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf in Germany ($7.75)
This tangy straw-colored gose is brewed with coriander and sea salt, which gives it a crisp and almost mouthwatering quality. The bright, lemony flavor of the fizzy beer makes it a quenching drink, even on a 100-degree afternoon.
Prairie Ale from Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, Okla. ($10.25)
In the glass, this hazy gold Oklahoma brew looks like champagne with a white foamy head. The flavor is more farmhouse-funky than sour — hardcore beer geeks might describe notes of “hay” or “horse blanket.”
“It’s very barnyard-y,” Pyles says. “And it’s very amazing.”
St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition from Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Belgium ($7.75)
Sour beer lovers flip for this fruity and tongue-puckering gueuze (pronounced gooze), which is made by blending old and young lambics. Lambics are Belgian beers brewed with wild yeast.
St. Louis Geuze Fond Tradition is a good pick for a fall dinner — Pyles says it would pair well with apple and pork dishes.
Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale from Brouwerij Van Steenberge in Belgium ($4.50)
Because it’s sweet, Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale is perfect for those who are new to sours, Pyles says. The mahogany-colored beer, which tastes like cherry and sour grape, also appeals to red wine lovers.
Bacchus Belgian Ale from Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck in Belgium ($6.75)
This cloudy and complex beer, one of Pyles’ favorites, brims with blackberry and cherry flavor. It’s sour, yet well balanced — and great with dessert.
“Think of it with cheesecake topped with bourbon-soaked cherry sauce,” Pyles says, eyeing the open kitchen behind the bar. “I want someone to make that right now.”