Food + Wine

Salty and Sour

So, I’m an adventurous eater. There aren’t many things I won’t eat.
Except jarred mayonnaise. That stuff is the devil.
Like, I would be an amazing contestant on one of those competition shows where you have to eat crazy things to stay on the island.I would never be forced to leave the island.  I would be typing this post on that island.

I’m also an adventurous drinker. (Basically, I’ll try anything. I’ll do anything. I’m that person.)  I’d like to think of it as ‘I have a very open mind’ instead of… ‘I’m crazy’

There’s this type of beer called a Sour. And.. It’s exactly like what it sounds like. It’s…Sour.  Not Bitter, which is what a lot of great beers are, but actually tart and Sour. A lot of Sours get that way from the addition of fruit (usually cherries) during the aging process, which help that secondary fermentation happen. And, while most beers are brewed in a sterile environment, where wild yeasts aren’t allowed to enter, Sours are givers, they don’t discriminate- they welcome the wild yeasts and bacteria to come and play. And this is what creates the distinct flavor of a Sour.  (It’s also what causes them to be a little better for us to drink, as consuming any sort of wild yeast is very beneficial to our guts.)
But this wild yeast action also causes the price to be pretty high. Wild yeasts are a…wild card, for lack of a better term. They can be very temperamental, as things out of our control, like climate, play a huge factor whenever you’re dealing with them, and they don’t always respond well or behave, so that’s why beers that use them have a high price tag. (Wicked Weed is an excellent producer of Sours and you can pay around $10 for a pint-size bottle, but it’s totally worth it.)
Then there’s a specific German style of a Sour-wheat beer called a Gose. (Pronounced Gose-uh– The Westbrook Brewing Co. in SC is the one I’m talking about today- it has a 93% BA Rating)  It’s brewed with coriander and salt. Yes, salt! It is so unbelievably interesting and cool. When you pour it into a glass, it looks like watered honey-a beautiful golden hue.  And then when you touch it to your tongue, it tastes like… a green tomato gazpacho…or sucking on a lemon wedge sprinkled with salt…or a half sour pickle- still firm and vibrant and clinging tightly onto the cucumber it once was. It’s just so cool.  But if you can’t really wrap your brain around the whole Sour/Salty beer thing, if I’m freaking you out a little right now then riddle me this- Why do you love a margarita so much with your chips and guac?  Why does a gatorade taste like sex feels after a 5 mile run at 4 pm in late July?  It’s because you are tasting Sour mixed with salt.  And whenever you have two, otherwise conflicting flavor notes melded together, they become one harmonious taste on your tongue.  Sweet and Salty, Sweet and Sour,  Sour and Salty…they all can work together to make incredible tastebud music. There’ s a lot that goes on inside those mouths that you probably aren’t even aware of.  Lots of secrecy, lots of undercover stuff happening…Get ready to be schooled, ya’ll.

OK so, tastebuds are an actual, scientific thing.  Not just a made up term like cankles or restless leg syndrome.  On our tongues are visible, tiny bumps called papillae, and dispersed throughout each papillae are the taste buds- there are hundreds of them.  The things we taste can be categorized into 5 groups- Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter and, the new kid on the block- Umami. The cavemen inside of us immediately respond positively to Sweet and Salty- those are flavors that our tongues recognize as energy-rich foods, foods we need for survival, but the taste of Sour and Bitter immediately triggers a warning sign- it causes us to take a step back and think, ‘Wait.  This isn’t normal, this may be bad, this may be poison.’  So a lot of people are put off by the flavors of Sour and Bitter.  (Aw, poor Sour and Bitter.)  But that’s only because poisonous plants tended to be very Bitter in flavor.  Bitter and Sour still to this day have a negative a connotation to them, we put those guys down on a regular basis- Bitter til the end, a Bitter pill to swallow, the negative counterpart to Bittersweet, Sour grapes… But that’s simply not fair.  That just means we need to work a little harder to find the beauty in something that is either Bitter or Sour. They’re the underdogs here, and I always root for the underdog.

Even our tongue plays favorites- Flavors that enter our mouths hit on different parts of our tongue, causing us to react to them in different ways.  When we taste something Salty or Sweet, we are doing so on the very tip and center of our tongues.  It’s an easier, more recognizable flavor profile for the tongue, a more immediate taste. But when we taste something Bitter or Sour, our tongue gets it at the very back and along the sides. (and Umami takes over the whole tongue- that little hussy.)  Think about it, when you sucked on those super Sour candies as a kid, do you remember feeling it at the back of your tongue?  It almost hurt back there, didn’t it?  But it felt like a challenge.  And that, my friends is what we need more of.  We need to challenge our tongues more.  (Stop it, stop it right now- you dirty minded people.)

So maybe that’s what I really like about this Gose.  It’s unique and different and challenging.  One sip leads to a thought and a question, which leads to another sip, and so on and so forth.  I really love this stuff. But I know I can’t love it too much because it’s super hard to find.  My husband and a good friend came home with a couple 6 packs the other day and they both are hoarding them.  There may be locks and keys involved.  So I’ve been reduced to sneaking some sips every now and then when they’re not looking to scratch the itch.

Bottom line- If you’re an adventurous drinker and like the idea of trying new things, then you must give this puppy a try.  I challenge you to do so.

Your tastebuds will thank you…and maybe your cankles too.


Visit the Westbrook Brewing Co. (pictured above) for more information.  Or NoDa Brewing Company for their What Gose Round– they add ginger to theirs!

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