ABQ Beer Week Review: Ascending the Tower of Sour

Posted: May 25, 2014 by erockslab in ABQ Beer Week 2014

It’s a big day for the Brew Crew as Mrs. Solo debuts with her first story! (With help from E-Rock.) They attended the Second Annual Tower of Sour at Back Alley Draft House on Friday night. Here is their review of the beers they sampled and recommendations for what to seek out the next time you have a hankering for a good sour or two. — Stoutmeister

When I volunteered to go to the Tower of Sour event at Back Alley, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve had very few sour beers and I don’t know much about them. When I heard “tower of sour” I imagined a tower of champagne glasses, with sour beer pouring from each glass. While visually this would have been really cool, I knew it was a pretty absurd idea.

When I arrived at Back Alley, a few minutes before 5 p.m., the place was pretty much empty. Right at 5, however, the craft beer drinkers of Albuquerque began piling in, ready to order their flights of sours.

Greetings, this is E-Rock, adding a few extra thoughts is italics. I arrived at Back Alley about 10 minutes after 5 to find that the place was packed. Thankfully, Mrs. Solo saved a seat for me. I could not attend last year’s Tower of Sour due to scheduling conflicts, so I jumped at the chance to sample one of my favorite styles of beers when I saw that I had no conflict this year. I’m glad I could attend. Back Alley collected a great variety of sours with varying flavor profiles brewed in different places around the globe.

The sours were split into two flights with each flight consisting of four beers. Most groups ordered both flights because, well, why wouldn’t you?

Gaze upon the delicious samples at the Second Annual Tower of Sour at Back Alley Draft House.

Gaze upon the delicious samples at the Second Annual Tower of Sour at Back Alley Draft House.

Flight One

Alvinne Phi: This Blonde sour is aged in stainless steel with Morpheus yeast and comes in with an ABV of 10 percent! This was great way to start the flight. It has a strong sour taste but is not overwhelming.

Ichtegem’s Grand Cru: The Grand Cru is a Flemish Red Ale that has been aged in wooden casks for two years. ABV is 6.5 percent. After the tartness of Phi, the Grand Cru is a shock of sweetness. To me, this beer tastes more like a cider than a sour.

Petrus Aged Red: This beer is made from the Double Brown Ale with Aged Pale and cherries added at the end. ABV is 8.5 percent. The sweet cherry flavor of this sour is overwhelming. E-Rock and I both agreed that it tastes like they added sweet cherry syrup but if you like cherry soda, you might really like this sour.

Silly Sour: 87 percent Sour ale blended with 13 percent saison goes into the Silly Sour for an ABV of 5 percent. This beer tasted more like a saison than a sour at first, but the sour notes began coming through the more I drank it.

The sample list for the 2014 Tower of Sour at Back Alley Draft House.

The full sample list for the Second Annual Tower of Sour at Back Alley Draft House.

Flight Two

Moylan’s Lonely Tart Club: Made with both sweet and sour cherries, this sour is fermented with three Belgian yeast strains and soured with Lactobacillus. ABV comes out to 5.3 percent. This was my favorite of the sours. The cherry flavor is much more subtle than the Petrus Aged Red and it is more sour and not too sweet.

Professor Fritz Briem Grodziskie: A sour smoked wheat ale that is brewed using the historic recipes by Dr. Fritz Briem from Munich, Germany. This recipe dates back to the 15th century. ABV of 4 percent. This beer tastes more like a wheat beer than a sour. It has a strong smokey taste that gets better as it warms. The smoked taste was so subtle that I didn’t notice it at first. After subsequent tastings its smokey taste became very pronounced.

Petrus Aged Pale: Aged in Calvados Barrels for 18 months with an ABV of 7.3 percent, the aged pale has a sour start with a bland finish. It does improve after sitting out for a bit. Much like the saison, this beer started out with a very subtle flavor and became more and more sour as I drank it. I was disappointed with its lack of flavor at first, but it became a very tasty sour in time.

New Belgium La Folie: This sour brown ale is aged in oak barrels from one to three years. ABV is 7 percent. E-Rock remarked that this is what he expects from a sour and it was his favorite overall. It has a strong sour taste with hints of green apple and plum. I liked it more with each sip and hope to have it again soon since it is in short supply.

Overall, this was a great event with a big turnout. I arrived a sour skeptic and left a sour fan. Thanks, Back Alley, for hosting and bringing in an awesome selection of sours.


— Mrs. Solo

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