Rain Couldn’t Dampen Spirits at Sour+Wild+Funk Fest 2016
The Saturday of Sour+Wild+Funk fest, hosted by Upland Brewing, dawned gray and a little chilly. That didn’t stop this intrepid husband and wife team from bundling up and heading to City Market to get wild and funky, though. We’ve been fans of the sour genre for a while, so when the chance came to attend this event and write up our experience, we jumped on it. The weather may not have cooperated fully, but even in the midst of a downpour, there was plenty of comraderies, fun, and most of all good beer.
We began the tasting at Indiana’s own 18th Street Brewery and ended at Seventh Son from Columbus. In between, we had the chance to taste some amazing beers and chat with quite a few of the friendly brewers and pouring volunteers from the participating breweries. At the bottom of this article we’ve included a list of some of the standout beers and breweries that we hit (although it would be impossible to name them all). The overarching theme of the event was a tribute to all things sour, wild, and funky, which is both a challenging flavor palate and a difficult concept to capture in words. The festival resonated with the attendees, though, with visitors making their way to Indy from Cincinnati and beyond to try to beers.
Instead of making a futile attempt to describe each and every brew, we chatted with some of the movers and shakers and Sour+Wild+Funk on the topics of sour beer, brewing technique, how they first got hooked on the style and more. See what we asked a few of them and how they responded below.
Us: This is an awesome beer. Can you tell us about it?
Bearded Iris: Yeah, so Bout that Base is our blended house saison, which is made from our clean saison and our proprietary yeast culture, it’s about three months old at this point so it’s a little bit less funky and acidic, a little more acid in the nose and a little bit of delicate and nuanced funk in the beer so the blend together makes it a clean and a little bit of light funk in this saison.
We then caught up with the events and marketing coordinator from Prairie Artisan Ales, who gave us the skinny on their sour program.
Prairie Artisan Ales: So we dry hop, hop from the bottom as opposed to the top because it gives it a better flavor profile of the hops especially with the sours. So, instead of going from the top this just creates a more balanced, full flavor of the hops for us.
Us: Cool. So why sour beers? Obviously, because they’re delicious, but…?
Prairie: Right. They’re really good, and we’ve actually had a lot of conversations about barrel aged sours versus kettle sours, and for us it’s just about really liking that clean crisp flavor and that’s why we kind of go for sours. Personally, not necessarily for me but for the brewery, we’re in 25 states and 20 countries, so doing stouts and sours are better because once they get to wherever they’re going they still taste like great beers. It gives us longevity and shelf life, so we still get to be really creative on the artisan side, and the beers sometimes can be even better when they get to their final destination.
The skies opened up and we ran for shelter, and who should we run to but the waiting arms (and kegs) of Colin and Colin from Seventh Son out of Columbus Ohio? We talked to them about their setup while we waited for the storm to blow over.
Us: So this Goo Goo Muck Tart is a phenomenal beer. Do you have a dedicated sour program?
Seventh Son: We dabble. That’s the best way to put it.
Us: You dabble well.
Seventh Son: Thanks. We appreciate it! That’s the second version of that beer. The first one wasn’t quite tart enough on the end, so we did it again and pushed the amount of acidity a little bit higher. Around the warmer months we start doing the farmhouse beers, so saisons and table beers and things like that, we’ll run those all the way through October and then we’ll do a Biere de Garde in October to finish out that series. We’ve been around for about three years and we’ve done about 85 different beers in that time.
Us: So why sour beers?
Seventh Son: Why do we make them or why do people like them?
Us: Either. Or both!
Seventh Son: I guess all of the above then. It’s…we like sour things. Humans like sour stuff, you know? We shouldn’t but we do, and you can have a good acidic orange or Sour Patch Kids or whatever, and so when you get into beer…I had my first sour beer, a monk’s flemish red, at a cafe in Philly in 2005. I’d had nothing like it in Columbus – we didn’t even know about Rodenbach at the time, and so we had that beer in Philadelphia and we went back to Columbus and we were looking everywhere for this beer and it just doesn’t exist, so that’s how we found out about Rodenbach. Ten years later, now it’s this huge thing.
Us: It’s like we’re growing taste buds all of a sudden.
Seventh Son: And it’s for everything: beer, cheese, the whole nine. So anyway, we make them because I like drinking them, they’re fun to make, a challenge to make, and people are asking for them too. So again, we’ll do two or three new beers a month, and when you’re working at that kind of pace you’re looking around asking what’s next.
By this point in the festival, most breweries were packing up and heading out. The stormclouds had finally cleared, so we took it as a sign that we should do the same. Before we leave off, here are just a few final thoughts from each of us on what we took away from the festival.
Laura: This was a fantastic beer fest—City Market was a great venue even if it was a gross day outside. I was so bummed out that Mikkeller couldn’t serve their beer! It turns out that European kegs aren’t compatible with the serving system we have set up in the good old USA, so nobody got a chance to try what they had brought. The other breweries more than made up for it, though. My favorite was 3 Floyds Skull’Ole. It’s a limited release, which is too bad because it is fantastic. A true sour fan’s beer, you will feel the tartness of this one in your sinuses when you drink it. It’s got a phenomenal dark cherry flavor to it, though, which is super addictive. I also wish that I hadn’t broken my phone almost immediately after this event because I lost all the recordings I made with other breweries. Guess we’ll just have to come back next year!
Gideon: Agreed! My love of all things sour and funky, accompanied by a good storm and the best partner a guy could ask for, made for the greatest beer festival I have been to so far. From 18th Street’s Bretta, Back the Funk Up to the three glasses of Seventh Son’s Goo Goo Muck Tart IPA, it was a wonderful experience. Perhaps my favorite beer of the day was 18th Street’s Dark Saison with Cardamom—a delicious dark sour beer that I wish I could have drunk much more of, but have an unfortunate cardamom allergy that would have brought a wrath of heartburn had I enjoyed more than one glass. All in all, I am extremely happy to see so many breweries, especially in Indiana, making such great sour beers. I can’t wait to taste next year’s offerings!
Here are some beers that you should definitely pick up if given the chance:
Upland Brewing – Come what Mayhaw
Brugge – Diamond Kings of Heaven
Black Acre – Bretted Trulock’s Revenge
Sun King – Back Home Again
Tin Man – Prickly Pear Grapefruit Gose
Bearded Iris Brewing – Bout that Base
Seventh Son – Goo Goo Muck Tart IPA
18th Street – Barrel Aged Farmhouse
3 Floyds – Skull’Ole & Icelandic Pants of the Dead
Penrose – Session Sour
Flat 12 – Sometimes Dead is Better Blackberry
Taxman – In the Red
Mad Anthony – Cucumber Sour
Fonta Flora/Wicked Weed – Funk and Flora