One of the growing trends in the American craft brewing scene the last few years has been the emergence of “sour” beers. This is a very broad term, and covers a lot of territory. A lot of the use of souring “bugs” such as Brettanomyces (of which there are several strains), Pediococcus, and Lactobacillus comes to us from Belgium where styles such as Lambic, Oud Bruin, and Flanders Red have been brewed for a long time. In Germany, a couple of sour styles, Berliner Weisse and Gose, has popularity that has expanded into America. Any style of beer can be soured, but clearly some styles work better than others.
Within this broad world of sours, is the niche of Wild beers. Traditionally, wild ales were brewed by leaving the wort (the liquid created by steeping mated grain in hot water) exposed to the natural yeasts and bacteria in the air, often in a device called a coolship. In the modern brewing world, the various souring agents are used in a more controlled manner, and even home brewers can get satisfactory results with ingredients from the local homebrew store.
Out at the North Fork Brewery, they’ve been working on some sour/wild/funky ales for a few years now, and the results have been intriguing, and today we’re visiting one of their newest releases, DooLittle. In tribute to the traditional way of creating sours, NF has created a beer that uses the natural creatures found in Deming WA. DooLittle checks in at 6.9% ABV, and was served in a 10oz goblet. The beer poured a clean, clear dark gold color. The beer was very still, there was no head, and carried a low carbonation level.
A bright, bold funky scent came across in the front of the aromatics. Just behind that, was a nice wood scent, which was to be expected from a beer that spent 2-½ years in a reused whiskey barrel. There was just a faint hint of whiskey, and a gently nice fruity scent from the yeast. The fruit notes were a bit more noticeable on the tongue, and the wood was more subtle. But, the tartness was clearly the dominant feature. Crisp and mildly acidic, the tangy funk was a treat all throughout the palate. The fruit, wood and sour aspects combined for a special taste experience.
The body was on the light side of medium, which was a good fit for the flavor profile. Personally, I wouldn’t think a heavier base beer would have been as good a fit for this combination of flavors. The finish was very dry, the tartness floating around the back of the palate, almost taunting you to take another sip. It worked, I ended up having two. That’s a great indicator of the drinkability of this beer; it stayed interesting throughout both glasses, which some sour/wild ales aren’t capable of. They can very much be a one-at-a-time beer for some people.
I had my glasses alongside one of the North Fork’s tasty pizzas, pepperoni and sausage, and the yeasty crust provided a nice counterpoint to the tartness of the beer. Sour and wild ales aren’t going to be for everyone. But those who like them, tend to like them a lot. This beer would be a great one to see if maybe sours are your jam. This one will be approachable for those just learning about these brews, and it’s complex enough to keep the interest of beer drinkers who are already comfortable in the Funk Zone. After those 2+ years inside a dark, wooden barrel, DooLittle has popped out to provide a tangy dose of sunshine to our summer, and stands with some of the better sours I’ve had, earning it’s 8.1 on my 1-10 scale.