The State of Sour Beer in New York

 

[Updated February 19, 2015: Thanks to a great response from beer enthusiasts and NYS brewers like Ithaca Beer Co., Newburgh Brewing Co., Broken Bow Brewery, Community Beer Works, North Brewery, Nedloh Brewing Co., and Swiftwater Brewing Co., I had a ton of new entries (marked with an *) to add to the NYS sour beer database. Cheers, BP]

In previous articles I discussed legal issues facing New York breweries, including the importance of trademark registration and trademark searches for breweries. This article, however, is an ode to New York’s sour and funky beers and includes a table of every New York sour/funky beer of which I’m aware. The goal of this article is to encourage the production of sour beers in New York and increase awareness of New York sours so that when people think of sour beers in America they won’t just think of Oregon or California, but of New York as well. First, what do I mean by sour and funky beers? The vast majority of beer is fermented with beer yeast, or Saccharomyces cerevisiae. There are, however, a series of less common microbes that are being used by brewers in interesting ways to add funk and sourness to beers. These microbes include:

  • Brettanomyces: This wild yeast, also known as “Brett” can lend funky and sometimes fruity flavor/aroma profiles to a beer. Different types commercially available Brett are Brettanomyces Anomalous, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (which may actually may not be strain of Brett), Brettanomyces Lambicus, and Brettanomyces Claussenii
  • Lactobacillus: This bacteria converts sugars and lactose to lactic acid, which lends a sour, tart, and refreshing flavor to beer. Lactobacillus, or “Lacto,” is also responsible for the slight acidic tartness you taste in yogurt.
  • Pediococcus: This is another type of bacteria, “Pedio,” that produces lactic acid (sour, tart flavor) and can produce diacetyl (movie popcorn butter flavor).

Very generally speaking, Brett contributes funk and Lacto/Pedio contribute sourness. Sour and funky beers be fermented with Saccharomyces and a mix of different microbes (mixed fermentation beers) or no Saccharomyces at all (e.g., 100% Brett beers). For a more in depth discussion of sour/funky beers pick up a copy of American Sour Beers by Michael Tonsmeire, the talented brewer and beer blogger behind The Mad Fermentationist.

Below is a table in which I’ve listed just about all of the sour/funky beers made in New York State or by New York brewers, information about what microbes are being used, and a link to information about each beer. Beers with an “*” are new additions to the chart since the last update.

1-1

2-1

3

 

I’m sure I left some beers off the list above, and if so it was inadvertent. Brewers and anyone else are welcome to email me at bpalfreyman@harrisbeach.com or contact me on Twitter http://bit.ly/bpalfrey10 and I’ll update the chart from time to time. I’ll also add in any new sour beer that are made in New York, so keep them coming.

Many of the beers listed above, including New York’s more famous contributions to the sour beer movement like Captain Lawrence’s Cuvee de Castleton and Ithaca’s LeBleu, are either retired, one off limited productions, or extremely hard to find. Further, very few of the beers above are available year round. So while there are over 100 beers listed above, there are not a ton of sour beers made in our great state. I’m hoping that more breweries in New York will take up the sour flag and help to bring New York to the forefront of the sour beer movement. Cheers.

Author Information: Brendan Palfreyman is an attorney with Harris Beach PLLC in Syracuse, NY. A major focus of Mr. Palfreyman’s practice is representing and counseling breweries in New York State with respect to legal issues including trademark and copyright. Mr. Palfreyman is an award winning homebrewer, craft beer advocate, and has appeared on Beer Sessions Radio hosted by Jimmy Carbone to discuss craft beer and trademarks.

bpalfreyman@harrisbeach.com

Twitter: http://bit.ly/bpalfrey10

(315) 423-7100

 

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Brendan Palfreyman