In doing research on sour beers I came across an article written by Lew Bryson back in 2007 questioning if there would be enough appeal for the tart brews to make an impact in the market. That same year Stone Brewery had their first Sour Fest. Five years later their Sour Fest is still going strong.
When I got word via Twitter about Churchill’s Peter Reeves Memorial Second Annual Sour Fest, I marked my calendar and asked a few of my fellow beer peeps to save the date. I’ve always really like Churchill’s Pub and Grille, and they solidified themselves as my favorite North County restaurant/bar after the Safari Park Half Marathon earlier this year. I had arrived after the race a few minutes before opening and instead of watching me dance around in my sweaty clothes until 11a.m., they opened their doors early and welcomed me in.
A couple days prior to the Sour Fest I saw a West Coaster Facebook post promoting the event. West Coaster is a San Diego publication geared towards beer folk, and I immediately went into panic mode. I HATE crowds or waiting for a table. I came up with a plan B (go to Mother Earth Brew Company), but hoped we could still stick with original plan. A few members from my beer crew arrived early to grab a table. I was happy to see although there was a good turnout, the place was not a mad house when we arrived. Many beer events charge an entrance fee and have ‘X’ amount of tasters included in the fee. That was not the case for this event and I was happy about that.
The tap list was spectacular. Definitely a sour beer lover’s dream. At the very bottom on the list there was a small note stating 4oz tasters were available for purchase. Perfect! My childhood friend, Laura and I devised a plan not to duplicate orders and share, enabling us to try as many as possible without having full pours. I crossed my fingers nobody had cooties, and sipped away. After sampling a few, a couple people in the group had figured out Sours were just not for them.
Laura has been my largest female influence when it comes to expanding my beer horizons. I had realized I enjoyed beer, but it was taken to a whole new level when she invited Ben and I to join the beer club she co-founded. A recognized beer judging system (BJCP) gives points to each beer based on Aroma, Appearance, Flavor, Mouthfeel, and Overall Impression. This was the system we often used in the Beerocrats Society of San Diego but due to limited writing space Laura was forced to get creative.
Although sour beers are not for everyone (my sister-in-law imagined it would be like having a glass of pickle juice), I definitely feel it has found its niche. Sours are not easy to make. The tartness comes from the aging process lasting 18 months to a few years in wooden vessels. The natural wild yeasts and bacteria found in the wooden containers do its thing resulting in tartness and flavors that can vary from batch to batch. This variation is one thing about these beers I find fascinating considering the market usually calls for consistency.
Overall I was very happy with the 2nd Annual Peter Reeves Memorial Sour Fest and would recommend it to any sour beer fan. It never got too loud out on the patio, allowing great conversation among the group. In my old age, the ability to hear one another talk is high on my priority list. The staff was friendly and attentive. I really wish Churchill’s was a little closer to home! Two thumbs up Churchill’s!