You blink up at the brewery’s chalkboard, trying to decide what to drink. Is it your imagination, or is there one less double IPA than the last time you visited?
Yep, and it was likely a sour beer that took its place.
“If you’ve never had one, [a sour] is unlike anything you’ve ever had before,” said Jordan Romano, a sales associate and resident beer expert at Shoreline Beverage in Huntington. “Every single one you open is a mystery, and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
That’s because the wild yeast or bacteria (or both) used to ferment sour beer — lambics, wild ales, Berliner Weisses and goses that are among the most ancient of styles — can yield unpredictable results, but a quenching quality that makes you want to keep drinking and falls anywhere between a subtle pucker to the full-on tartness of sucking on a lemon.
Long ferments and the unruly presence of those microbes in brewing vessels make sour beers a challenge to make in a small commercial setting, but sours are getting easier to find on Long Island — and as hops fatigue sets in, demand for sours is growing. At Shoreline, Romano — who calls sours “works of art” — tends to a sprawling inventory of sours, including goses, or wheat ales brewed with salt and spices that Romano thinks offer a gentle entrée to the style. “You have to go into the shallow end before you get to the deep end,” he says, handing over a can of Beyond the Shore from Riverhead’s Mustache Brewing Co. (a gose).
At Garvies Point Brewery in Glen Cove, sours are a growing slice of the lineup. “In the past three to five years, American brewers have been innovating the [sour] style and creating their own versions,” said co-founder Mark Scoroposki. He and partner Ben Kossoff use lactobacillus for the beers in their Sour Batch series. Sour Batch Citra, a light-bodied, dry-hopped wheat sour, is canned and distributed all over Long Island; heading into the colder months, the brewery plans to release some “darker sours,” said Scoroposki, as well as a Blueberry Mosaic Sour that will be tapped in their tasting room in early November — and tends to go quickly.