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More of what Santa didn't bring this year

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After which, I might need a drink, and this year has been the year of barrel-aged sour beer. I’m not sure quite where this fits in the Chinese calendar, but I’m lobbying for having it every year because it’s been an experience, thanks to the creativity of the modern craft beer movement. Sour beers use naturally occurring yeasts, and associated bacteria like Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces, to ferment the liquor, producing a characteristically savoury and sour taste. It’s much the same process that is used in sourdough, and some of the smells in the beer are very much present in sourdoughs too. The flavour is, as you’d expect, predominantly sour, but the use of hops means a complex sour/bitter thing is going on which is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Barrel-ageing brings a degree of creaminess, maturity and complexity to the flavours which I’d normally associate with wines, in fact one of my very favourites, ‘Sour Grapes’ (sadly, all gone now), aged three years in oak wine barrels, had the creamy complexity of a really fine white Rioja. There are lots of others, ‘Modus Operandi’ by the Wild Beer Company being a current favourite, but new sour beers, or ‘saisons’ are cropping up all the time and it’s proving hard to keep up. Nevertheless, I’ll do my best.

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