The New York Times published a fine article Wednesday on the growing trend of brewing sour beers.
Of course, sour beers describe several styles that in some cases have been brewed for centuries: lambics, red and brown Flanders-style ales, perhaps saisons.
Still, as the article notes, it's a sign of the maturation of American craft brewing that many brewers are no longer satisfied with producing English-inspired beers like India pale ales.
In fact, some craft brewers completely ignore the usual pale ale-IPA-amber/red ale-brown ale-stout-porter-ESB range of styles.
Upright Brewing in Portland focuses its lineup on Belgian-inspired beers that could loosely be called saisons. In Denver, Del Norte Brewing mainly brews Mexican-style lagers (something our own Ska Brewing has done for years with Mexican Logger, but not to nearly the same extent).
I love sour beers. Deschutes' The Dissident, a Flanders-style sour brown ale, is perhaps my all-time favorite beer. Sour Belgian classics like Rodenbach and Duchesse De Bourgogne (sold at Star Liqours in Durango) are often stunning.
Locally, Durango's brewers have been at work on several Belgian-inspired sours. Ska released Ska Sour in January. I thought the strong hop bitterness interfered with what could have been a good sour Belgian, and gave it a C+. I liked a recently tapped Ska Flanders-style red ale better, but it could have used more aging. The brewery's recent Local Series release, Saison Du'Rango, is a nice grassy, refreshing take on the style. I gave that one an A-.
Durango Brewing Co.'s take on a Belgian-style ale, 20th Anniversary Ale, I thought tried to be too many types of beer at once, and ended up muddling the flavors. I gave that one a B.
Carver Brewing Co. occasionally brews a saison, but it's been too long ago for me to offer a judgment.
All in all, I'm thrilled that brewers in Durango and across America are brewing Belgian-style sours. Some kinks remain to be worked out in some cases. But the future is sour, and that's a wonderful thing.