On Wednesday night, Jacob’s Pickles hosted a sour beer tasting with drafts from a number of domestic breweries; Bruery Hottenroth’s Berliner Weisse, the Allagash Golden Brett, Jolly Pumpkin’s Weizen Bam Bière and standard Bam Bière, Singlecut’s Levon Lecitron Saison, Carton Brewery’s CC Mezzo, The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness, and Peekskill’s Simple Sour all made appearances. But even if you didn’t make the party, you should still head up to the restaurant: That impressive sour beer lineup is available until the kegs run dry. And to whet your palate, we talked to the bar’s owner and namesake, Jacob Hadjigeorgis, about sour beer.
Why sour beers?
My beverage manager, Alex English, and I just started noticing more sours being available domestically. Since we only focus on domestic beer–specialty craft beer–we weren’t so interested in the sour styles that traditionally come out of Belgium, for example. But the moment they started to be produced around the country, it really piqued our interest. It just gets to a point where a lot of the styles that a restaurant or bar will carry are so comparable, that it’s refreshing to see a new style being brewed. It’s really the original style of beer. So in a sense it’s almost as if we’re going back to basics.
Right, because there was no way to brew in a closed environment.
Exactly. A lot of people describe modern beer brewing as 99 percent sanitation and 1 percent brewing.
Do you brew?
[Laughs]. I’ve attempted to brew, but my beer turned out to be a sour, unintentionally. I’m gonna stick to the pickling for now.
Any favorite meal to eat with a sour beer?
We had a really nice tasting with sour beers. My favorite pairing was probably the Tart of Darkness sour beer from The Bruery in California–it has cherry oak notes to it, and it’s dry and full-bodied–and we paired that with Point Reyes original blue cheese, which is super, super creamy and buttery, along with our buttery biscuit and house-made cherry preserves that were sweetened with honey. It was an unbelievable pairing. Not only did the sour itself have the body and the flavor profile to cut through the richness of the cream, but the cherries paired beautifully with the preserves. It was just exactly what I would have wanted for that particular beer.
The tasting was an exploration for us of all these beers that we weren’t all that familiar with. Most of them we had just hooked up that evening. It was an extremely hard list of beers to compile, like two months of planning. There’s just not a lot of them coming into the city, and when they do, they tend to go very fast. It’s a style that doesn’t get enough attention at this point, so maybe that’s the reason there aren’t as many coming into the city. It’s also a lengthy brewing process, so there’s less of it made.
Do you have a favorite sour beer?
Yeah, Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Bière. We had both their Weizen Bam, and standard Bam last night. The Bam I really liked. It had an antique-y flavor profile to it, a really funky must to it that I really enjoyed. It’s the same flavor profile that you might get in a lot of amber [ales].
It’s really hard for me to choose, because by talking about one, I sort of crave the progressive sourness. If I had to choose three, I’d start with Bruery Hottenroth’s Berliner Weisse–not overly tart, really nice just to get the palate going, relatively dry with a lot of citrus, light lemon taste–then go to the Bam, and then end with the Tart of Darkness. I loved the rich oaky flavor to it. With a lot of these sours, you get a lot of fruit with them, and there’s this perception that they’re brewed with fruit, but they’re not. So it’s a really interesting style to us. We love how much the category can vary. Sours can just go crazy; each has such a personality of its own. As a restaurant, we love how they pair with food. It’s a style people either love or hate. It fluctuates more than any other style we have found and that alone intrigues us to try as much as we can.
Try them for yourself –the sours are on tap until they run out, so get there soon. And if you’re looking for local sours, try Newburgh Brewing Company and Singlecut Beersmiths for New York-made brews. Jacob’s Pickles is located at 509 Amsterdam Avenue, between 84th and 85th Streets.