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“This beer is a really nice balance of fruit and tartness with a nice, thin body and low ABV, making it super easy to throw a few back on a warm evening."

Black Cherry Sour and the Science Behind Our Sours

As many of our fans now know, we love variety when it comes to our beers. In addition to shandies, other favorites include our sours. For many of us, these beers hold a special place in our hearts, and they remain a popular option for those who also love wine or enjoy the sour/tart options that sours provide.  

This week, we touched base with sour extraordinaire and Lab Technician Matt Allen to get the deets on what goes into some of these brews, and what the difference is between our canned and bottled sours. Our sour release this week is a Berliner-Style Weisse Ale with Cherries Black Cherry Sour!

Matt explains that the Berliner Weisse originated in Germany, and is characterized as a tart and fruity, low-alcohol sour. Traditionally, the base beer is poured into a pint, and a specialty type of syrup known as woodruff syrup is used for flavoring, not unlike those pumps of syrup you might add in your morning coffee! 

We switched things up by adding the fruit essence directly into the brewing process: “In this beer, we added black cherry into the beer while it was fermenting so that the sugars from the fruit would be fermented out. This gives the beer its nice fruity character, but takes out the sweetness of the extra sugar, giving it a lighter body,” Matt says.

(Ed. note: *chef’s kiss*)

Let’s check out more about how we make our sours!

“There are two ways of souring that are commonly used in brewing: wild sours (barrel-aged or secondary fermentation) and quick sours,” Matt says.

He points to The Topsail (U.S. Open Beer Championship Gold Medalist, no big deal) and Lady in Room 10 (a production favorite) as some of our more well-known barrel-aged sours. 

There even might be some of you out there who still have some bottles of these. (If you’re out there, we’re available to hang out whenever. Just saying). 

So what exactly is a quick sour?

Quick sours simply mean the absence of a long waiting process. Fan-favorite Key Lime Corrosion is our most recent, and our new brew Black Cherry Sour is the same. 

“Quick sours are much easier to work with because they are much more controlled and have a lower risk of contaminating non-sour beers. We can also easily control the pH/tartness/sourness,” Matt explains. While barrel-aged sours could take three months to four or more years to come to fruition, “one of the ways you can control the amount of sour or tartness in a quick sour brew is to add souring bacteria (lactobacillus/pediococcus) to the kettle during brewing.”

This bacteria is key, as it helps create the lactic acid needed for the brewing process.

“The bacteria will create lactic acid as a byproduct of eating sugars extracted from the grain,” he says. “We can monitor the pH of the unfermented beer (aka wort) and continue the brewing process by boiling the wort and killing all the bacteria once the wort reaches the sour-level that we want. Some breweries are even known to add yogurt starters or lactic acid straight into the kettle as well.”

(Ed. note: *stares down at our half-eaten yogurt cup*)

Matt’s our wild sours guy, but he makes up The Sour Team along with Production Planning & Specialty Brewing Manager Brian Hink and Packaging Manager Mark Graves

They’re like the Avengers, only, you know, for sours.

“For quick sours, I help Brian out with recipe development, touching mostly on tartness and fruit additions using benchtop trials, that way we can scale up the recipes for our full-sized brews!” Matt says.

While you’ll find our wild sours in bottles to avoid contaminating the canning line, quick sours can join the pack to be canned. “All of those souring yeast/bacteria are killed off during the boil process,” he explains, making them cootie-free for our other canned brews. 

To give us a sneak peek on what to expect with Black Cherry Sour, Matt shares his thoughts on the beer, and why The Bog fans should be excited: “This beer is a really nice balance of fruit and tartness with a nice, thin body and low ABV, making it super easy to throw a few back on a warm evening. There aren’t a ton of low ABV sours out there, making this a great beer for people who love sours, but want to throw back a few of them.” 

On the flip side, for those just starting out on their sour journey, this brew is also a great choice. “It isn’t overly sour, so it should be an enticing beer for people who want to start getting into sours but don’t like to get smacked in the face with tartness,” Matt says.

Quick sours like this brew get the all-star treatment, just like any of our flagship beers. “This is one of the reasons we come out with quick sours on a much more regular basis than wild sours,” Matt shares. 

Our wild sours are on a whole different level, going into barrels where they are checked on monthly to monitor their progress. If you’ve ever sat in our Tasting Room, you’ve likely seen the stacked barrels in our Sour Room.

“People ask me all the time ‘are those barrels in the Tasting Room real?’ and the answer is YES! All the barrels that you see in the Tasting Room are filled (some as early as 2017 and others as late as this April). We keep the barrels over there so the yeast and bacteria associated with them do not contaminate our production facility,” Matt explains.

But you don’t have to be afraid of fermenting yeast popping out of a barrel like something from Alien. Matt assures us that there’s nothing to worry about. “These bacteria and yeast strains are completely harmless to humans and they take months to sour a beer, so your fresh pour will be just fine while you enjoy yourself at the Tasting Room,” he says.

Whew.

So, rest assured that your trip to the Tasting Room won’t turn into the origin story for Venom.

Our Black Cherry Sour is available on draft in the Tasting Room starting today, May 14th, for a limited time, and on draft throughout New Jersey starting Monday, May 17th, so why not stop by and enjoy a pint (or two) in the ambience and company of its fellow wild sours? You can even have a photo-op with one of these brews-in-the-making, some of which might be heading our way in the near future . . .  

If you’d like to take your sour to-go, it will be just as sweet sipped by the beach or from the comfort of home, so swing by our Brewtique to pick up a growler, or make sure to snag your CMBC growler from home to refill!