You may be asking “what took you so long to write this?” and part of me wants to say “because I never drank bitch beer, asshole…” but that would make me a liar. So I’ll say it.
I drank bitch beer. I drank lots of bitch beer. Bitch beer in bottles, bitch beer in cans, bitch beer mixed with vodka and Sonic drinks (oh, you are asking yourself “wtf, why?” Me too) You get the point. I’m not proud.
But it’s getting obscenely hot outside if you haven’t noticed. As much as I love something dark and creamy, I have no desire to throw back a porter at the pool. I want things that are tart and refreshing and bitch beers are really poor representatives that happen to have some of those characteristics. But, there are much better choices that can meet all those needs as well. So drink this, not that.
I’m not going to go into the mechanics of malt liquor. It’s beer-ish. Google it if you don’t know. Or ask your mom. Moms inexplicably always have a wine cooler or two squirreled away in the back of the fridge. It’s weird. And sad.
Meet the vast world of sours, my friends. They come in many different styles, and each has some damned delicious specimens that pair particularly well with a day of sunshine.
American wild ales utilize wild strains of yeast giving them a funky sour taste. They can be light or dark, but this funk ties them together.
Now, I recognize that “funky” is a tough characteristic to relate to if you’ve never experienced it in a beer. It doesn’t sound appealing, but have faith. It’s a great characteristic. Remember when you started falling for people because they were smart instead of just pretty? Smart = funky. All beauty, no brains = Mike’s Hard. You deserve smart. Just sayin.
Luckily for Austinites, Jester King Craft Brewery is a master of the wild ale, harvesting some strains right from the fields outside the brewery. If you need to see how we at Bitch Beer feel about Jester King, look here, here, and/or here. From Boxer’s Revenge to Funk Metal Sour Barrel-Aged Stout to the bottle of Atrial Rubicite I absolutely have to have, they do a phenomenal job with all of them.
Lambics are a Belgian style that are similarly exposed to wild yeast, traditionally of the Senne valley region near Brussels.They are dry and cidery with a sour aftertaste. Brasserie Cantillon has some world class lambics if you can get your hands on a bottle. A Gueuze is a blend of several lambics, usually of different ages that is fermented again and then bottled again. They age particularly well because of the extra process. They are also intensely sour, so they may not be a perfect “gateway” sour, but if you want to go balls to the wall, this is your beer. Just don’t ice someone with one, please. That’s no fun for anyone.
Berliner Weissbiers are light and very refreshing and tart. Another plus is they are fairly low ABV, so you’ll be fine putting a couple back without getting wastey-faceted – because no one needs that bullshit at the beach. Austin Beerworks produces a bombshell of a Berliner Weiss called Einhorn (translates to unicorn) that is mythically good. See what I did there? On more than one occasion, members of the staff have found themselves quite drunk off this 3.5% ABV beer. We, sadly, don’t take our own advice about getting wastey-faceted off of Berliner Weissbiers.
Flanders Oud Bruin and especially Flanders Red Ales are sour and malty with more body than a Lambic would give you. My favorite for the summer is an Oud Bruin brewed in Belgium by Brouwers Verzet. We’ve had this darker sour mixed in a cocktail with a Belgian Kriek from Ter Dolen that combined tastes like cherry pie.
Fruit beers often have some tart qualities, depending on what fruit is incorporated and when during the process that incorporation occurs. Sometimes they come out sweet, maybe even overpoweringly so, so take a second to read up on a bottle of interest. If you can grab a fruit beer from New Glarus Brewing Company, I think you will be very pleased with what a beer of this style can be.
Ciders are also a delicious choice. Be warned, however, national brands tend to be a little more on the artificially sweetened side than the tart, putting them dangerously close to the Mason-Dixon line on bitch beers. There are places like Argus Cidery here in Austin, however, that are creating really powerful, dry, and deliciously sour ciders. Their summer release Idalou Brut is scrumptious and fancy. It can also knock you on your ass at 8.3%. Again, a little research will save you a world of heartburn. And let’s be honest, heartburn is so not cute in a bikini.
I’ve gone on and on about sours because they are great, especially in the summer. Keep in mind they aren’t your only option for summer beers, though. For a list of other great styles that are perfect for warmer weather, check out this Thrillist article that details what top notch Austin beer folks (including our own Caroline Wallace) would suggest this summer. Whatever you chose, leave the 4Loko and Smirnoff Ice behind. Your future summer plans thank you.