American Wild Ale: A Profile

American-Style Sour Ale 

As the name suggests, sour acidity is the defining characteristic of this style. The guideline has this to say: “The evolution of natural acidity develops balanced complexity. The acidity present is usually in the form of lactic, acetic and other organic acids naturally developed with acidified malt in the mash or in fermentation by the use of various microorganisms including certain bacteria and yeasts. Acidic character can be a complex balance of several types of acid and characteristics of age.” Although the beer may be aged in barrels, wood-derived flavors or flavors from the barrels’ previous contents must not be detectible. Brettanomyces character must also be absent. In fruited versions the flavor and aroma of the fruit should be noticeable and in balance with the other flavors. 2012 GABF medal winning examples include Fitger’s Framboise from Fitger’s Brewhouse and Lost Abbey Red Poppy.

American-style Brett Beer

These include beers that are fermented entirely with brettanomyces and those that utilize blended cultures that may include bacteria and saccharomyces. The guidelines say, “The evolution of natural acidity develops balanced complexity. Horsey, goaty, leathery, phenolic and light to moderate and/or fruity acidic character evolved from brettanomyces organisms may be evident, not dominant, and in balance with other character. Acidity may also be contributed to by bacteria, but may or may not dominate.” Brett beers may or may not include fruit. As with the American-style sour beers, barrel-derived flavors should not be evident. Examples include Boulevard Saison Brett beer and Surly Pentagram.

Wood- and Barrel-aged Sour Beer

This category encompasses the two styles above, but allows for the rich vanillin and other flavors imparted by barrel- or wood-aging. The flavors of sherry, rum, bourbon, scotch, wine or others from the barrel’s previous contents can be used to add complexity, but should be in balance with other flavors. The acidity and barnyard flavors of the above styles should also still be present. Fruit may or may not be present. Virtually all of the beers from Jolly Pumpkin Brewing Company fit into this category.

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Michael Agnew, A Perfect Pint About Michael Agnew, A Perfect Pint

Michael has a passion for beer. He is Minnesota's first Certified Cicerone (think sommelier for beer) with the Cicerone Certification Program, and a National Beer Judge with the Beer Judge Certification Program. In addition, Michael is himself an award-winning brewer. He writes a monthly column on beer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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