The Sour Beer Revolution: On the Slow Train from West to East

It’s undeniable that there is a sour beer revolution taking place in the U.S., and while I couldn’t tell you exactly where it started, I can tell you that it must be moving from west to east (and not fast enough for my liking). Over the past 5 years I’ve visited places like San Francisco, Portland (OR), Seattle and even Alaska, and during my time there I’ve found an amazing array of local sour beer offerings, as well as entire sour beer breweries and bars like Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco and Cascade Brewing in Portland, OR. I’ve really fallen in love with this style of beer, for it offers expansive new layers of complexity to most types of beer. Unfortunately for me, the revolution hasn’t taken hold where I live, in the Northeast (specifically Massachusetts).

On the west coast you can usually find at least one or two sour beer choices at most good beer bars, whereas I’m lucky if I can find 2 bars in a 100 mile radius that even serve a sour beer. There are certainly no devoted sour beer breweries in New England that I know of, although a few quality microbreweries are starting to dabble in the style (like Jack’s Abby Sour Barrel Project). There are only two explanations I can think of for what might be stalling progress.

It could be because New Englanders are so damn stubborn. A lot of trends start on the west coast and it takes New Englanders several years to come around to the idea. People were enjoying espresso drinks from Starbucks and other independent coffee shops while we were still sucking down our Dunkin Donuts medium regular coffee. Farm-to-Table dining was becoming a staple while we were still wolfing down our Dunkin Donuts Sausage, Egg & Cheese Muffin. Communities of gourmet food trucks were cranking out quality cuisine at affordable prices while we were making sure we established a Dunkin Donuts on every corner (sometimes across the street from one another, as is the case in my town). I hope you’re starting to realize how ridiculous we can be when it comes to embracing new food/drink trends.

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The second possibility is that the west is getting revenge on us for some of the things that were slow in getting to them. It took Lewis & Clark a year and a half just to get to the Pacific Ocean and discover the west coast in the first place. It took the Pony Express 10 days to deliver mail from Missouri to California. There was no Major League Baseball team until 1958 when the Dodgers and Giants moved there. New Kids on the Block toured the New England states for years before finally having a tour date on the west coast. Is this some kind of sick retribution? Withholding sour beer as punishment for the sins of my forefathers is cruel and inhumane!

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Regardless of the reason I would ask all the Northeasterners reading this blog to support sour beer, ask for it at your local liquor store, and when they don’t know what you’re talking about, explain it to them. If you see sour beer somewhere, buy it. If you don’t like it, you can always send it to me, I’ll drink it. If enough people do this maybe the New England beer industry will get the message and sour beers can become another ammunition choice in our craft beer gun (which shoots beer directly into my mouth).

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