It's late afternoon in the middle of January, and it is raining. Business as usual for the residents of Vancouver Washington. I'm headed south on I5 to Portland Oregon. I am on my way home, to the east about three and a half hours near the arid Yakima valley, Hop country. Strangely enough, hop country doesn't have much in the way of beer. A person would think a big German style lodge in the middle of hop fields where one could get wiener schnitzel and a saaz'd up Pilsener or perhaps a drunken polka party, but that in no way shape or form exists in America's largest Hop growing region.
The sun is beginning to set and I have to be at work tomorrow 7:00am. I really need to get home. This has been a 'family duty' trip to Vancouver, up and back in one day. There is an exit just over the Columbia river bridge into Portland that takes me East to follow the Columbia River, and into the Eastern Washington and Oregon desert, Or I stay on I5 and follow my keen sense of irresponsibility into Portland. It really pulls on the heart strings of a beer geek to simply 'pass through' Portland knowing the plethora of beer related innovation to be had. So there I am at Cascade Brewing Barrel House "The house of sour" http://cascadebrewingbarrelhouse.com/ with a lamb shepherds pie and a flight of sour beer. I would like to have a full pint of each but I simply do not have the time or the 'drinking and driving' luck that would keep me out of Jail. A flight plus one is better than nothing.
Kriek, a Cherry Lambic, and other Cherry creations fill up the the better part of Cascade's sour ale bill, while Cranberry, blackberry, blueberry, apricot, and grapes are used in other fruit infused brews. I have come a long way with appreciating the cherry flavour in beverages, but I am not a fan, due to a Cherry flavoured Pfizer product my friends and I drank gallons of back in the 80's. To this day, 25 years later, Cherry flavoured drinks tweek my dormant Robo nerve, and give me flashbacks. Even though I have a cherry thing, the Sang Noir (a bourbon Barrel Bing Cherry sour beer is complex with cornucopia of flavours. It is billed as a double Northwest red and aged over a year in Pinot and Whiskey barrels) was simply amazing. Non fruit sour ales are definitely represented and two of my absolute favourites are the Gose and Gold Yeller, A bright ale that is a sour blend of triples, quads, and golden. Gold Yeller is simply sour, and not over the top sour, but expertly balanced. It is sour beer without any distraction from its intended purpose, which is being a sour beer.
Why is BJCP style 17 so under represented? Only a handful of breweries will actually make a sour beer, and even then it's typically only a one-off special something. I find well made sours to be mind expanding; opening up the senses to new possibilities. Sours are a cure for writers block and, I'm sure, certain types of cancer, It has to cure something. If nothing else it seems to cure my winter blues, at least for a while.