Why They’re an Icon: Denver’s not called the Napa Valley of beer for nothing. Like their California-winemaking counterparts, the hundreds of breweries that dot the Front Range are pioneers of their craft, and many were early adopters of the trend toward bracing, juicy sours. Take Odell with its wonderful cherry-raspberry Friek, New Belgium’s famed La Folie and of course the many experiments of Crooked Stave.
Why They’re Overrated: After trying our share of examples that merely tasted like weird, bad wine, we turned to an expert, beer writer turned Chain Reaction Brewing Company co-founder Zack Christofferson, for insight. As he observes, “It takes a special brewer to know that a sour beer isn’t just adding bacteria; it’s understanding how the beer will react with it. Crooked Stave’s Chad Yakobson is a genius, but I’ve been to other breweries where I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, it makes my mouth pucker, but you kind of missed the boat on complexity.’” Meanwhile, Cafe Society editor Mark Antonation recently tasted a sour brown ale he could describe to us only as “oak water.” Says Christofferson, “We just need to focus first on what good beer is.”