Girls, Sours & Scotch

In the world of girls, I’m a broad – i.e. a chick with some lady-like tendencies, but missing critical “girl” genes.  You know, those genes that make girls like chintz and kitten calendars, or purchase “bump-its” and shirts with rhinestone flowers on them.  I’m not that girl.  I like action films.  I want fight scenes (preferably with Jason Statham).  I want explosions.  I want car chases with at least one aircraft involved.  I wanted Leo to die in “Titanic.”  Thus, I find I am often more comfortable with guy things.  Except scotch.   

I can’t stand scotch.  Back in the 90’s when scotch tastings were all the rage, I went to dozens of them.  I tasted highland scotch and low land scotch and various isles of fill-in-the-blank scotches.  I even went to the combo scotch and cigar tastings.  Still love cigars; still hate scotch.

When I started drinking craft beers, I was amazed at how much I really liked all kinds of beers.  I had my first Dark Lord.  I found Southern Tier beers in the form of Mokah and Iniquity.  English Porters, Oatmeal Stouts, Saisons, Quadrupels, American Wild Ales, IPAs – you name it; I liked them all.  That is until I had my first sour beer.  I remember it well:  Ithaca Excelsior Brute.  Couldn’t stand the stuff.  Yuk.  Double YUK.  And the Excelsior Brute is a very highly rated beer, mind you.  Sour beers, it turns out, are the scotch in my craft beer world.  My “beyond here there be dragons” beer.  My hard stop.

Sours aptly earn their name because they are, indeed, sour.  As in sssaaaaoooowwweeerrrrr.   I realize that some brewers make tame models of sour beers, but more typically, these are kick-you-in-the-balls, punch-you-in-the-kidneys-till-you-piss-blood sours.  Drinking a sour beer is akin to eating an un-ripe lemon.  It will make your head jerk back, and your mouth pucker, and your eyes shut uncontrollably because your mouth immediately wants to spit this stuff out – which would be mortifying because you are probably having this at some beer tasting in front of thousands of people.  My first encounter, I found myself wrestling with swallowing until my mouth was finally free to open and gasp for air and water or other liquid to wash away the sour taste jack hammering the tongue in my mouth.  I felt tricked!  Who, on earth, would do such a thing to a beer???  Brewers, apparently. 

Sour beers are a result of Brettanomyces or wild yeast and bacterial infection coming together, essentially they are spoiled beers.  Brewers (smart ones at least) won’t brew sours next to their ales or stouts because of the risk of spoiling other beer and equipment.  The result is a sour tasting beer.  The GABF uses words like “horsey” and “goaty” to describe sours.  I mean, does it really sound appealing to drink something with a descriptive adjective such as “goaty” attached to it??  Who ARE you people??  The only people who I have found that seem to enjoy and (shockingly) seek out these beers are the hop heads or the true beer geeks. 

It took me a while to notice this, but it became clear that hop heads tend to gravitate toward sour beers.  But I’m not talking about those normal hop heads of the Hop 15 and DFH 90 minute club.  I’m talking about the guys who love Hopslam and Hopsickle.  West Coast hop heads for whom no amount of hops is “too hoppy.”  These guys sprinkle hop blossoms on their Wheaties and substitute raw hops for chewing tobacco.  They probably eat Ghost Peppers and Chile Pequins, too.  In short, these are the Jeff Spicolis of craft beer.  My theory with this lot is that they have no taste buds left.  The only things getting through their scorched mouths are the extremes.  Hence, they can tolerate sours. 

Courtesy of the Daily Pull

For the beer geek, I suspect that the wide world of sours is yet another in a line of beers to be conquered and overcome.  Sours are the current “pet rock” in the craft beer world and that notch must be added to one’s beer belt in order to be a true, card-carrying beer geek.  These guys are like the guys who were at those scotch tastings who “ooo’d” and “awww’d” over those scotches that tasted like wet donkey ass.  It was cool to be seen drinking (and enjoying) these esoteric scotches and so they learned to like them or at least fake it really well.  I believe this is going on with sours, though (like with the scotch) I can’t prove it.  [There is a sour beer guy reading this who is getting his feelings hurt and loudly denouncing this indictment as heresy.  And he will be compelled – compelled I tell you – to write in a smug little comment to this blog post.  To him I say, “suck up the spray from my B.O.R.I.S The Crusher, sour-boy.”]

However, if I’m totally honest, I have to admit that maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m jealous because there is a beer out there that I just really don’t like and have no hope of every liking.  I never had that reaction to scotch, but it seems somehow wrong that there should be a beer out there that I can’t stand.  But maybe it’s not my fault.  Maybe my “girl” genes have finally kicked in and have thwarted my desire to like sours.  I say this because I haven’t found a girl yet who likes sours.  <snaps and points finger> Yeah, that’s it – sour beers are a dude thing. 

However, as I pen this, I just know some girl with a kitten calendar and wearing a bedazzled Hannah Montana shirt is squealing and cooing over a Russian River Supplication.  Shit.  <pops top on an IRS>

4 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Dave C #

    First and foremost, what a great post, Cathy! The only nit I will pick with this post is the lumping of all “extreme” hophead into the sour loving crowd. I know I am a hophead and I do say “the hoppier the better,” but I can not stand sours. I have tried different ones including a few highly rated ones. They taste like vinegar to me. They make me say that this bottle was left in a car, in Houston, in the summer for weeks. I appreciate those people that like them or even crave them, in fact I will even taste them from time to time, but I won’t be rushing out to purchase any. So I can understand your position on sours, it is the only branch of the beer tasting tree which I don’t fully understand either.


  2. 2

    I second everything you said, Cathy. Sours are still beyond me, and I’ve tried probably a dozen of them (all highly rated).

    And, for the record, I’m a dude.

  3. Jennifer Litz #

    The pictures — I get it! You think sour beers are too sour!

    My favorite beers on earth are Russian River’s Supplication, Consecration, Beatification, etc. line. Even better — Cuvee de Tomme. Have you had that one? It’s not over-the-top sour, at least in my opinion.

    I’ve always liked sour things, so I’m sure that has something to do with it. But the best sour beers are the ones that, despite being sour, are well balanced with a bit of sweetness, whether through unfermentable sugar additions or fruit flavors, a bit more warming booze, or even a more aggressive hopping.

    Even more opposite of you: I’m not a huge fan of the RIS. Which may be why I’m fine to let my Dark Lords age to smoothness. They’re just not well-balanced to me. Who, I ask, would do this to a beer, that didn’t have to build it to withstand a sub-zero shipping to Siberia anymore? :)

    And no, I don’t like kittens.

    You should come to Girls’ Pint Out’s tour of No Label Brewing the 14th, and bring friends! I’d love to finally meet you in person. No sours, I promise! Just a hefe and (hopefully) a solid pale.

  4. Lisa #

    Gggggggirl (no offense intended!)!!! You must revisit! Ever try a sour with sushi? Or with a salad tossed with cranberries and gorgonzola?!? Try Supplication with that! The palette coating impact of the cheese tones down that mouth pucker and bridges beautifully with the vinaigrette! You hate Scotch? Then I’m sure you hate smoked beer; add another type of beer to your hard stop! Or come slay some dragons in the beyond;). And no I’m not talking about those dragons you might have watched a few times in 3D. XO

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