The first thing you’ll notice when you pour one of Council Brewing’s Beatitude series beers is its bright neon color that’s nearly impossible to resist. So powerful was the allure of an early trial batch of Blueberry Tart Saison that the keg kicked in about an hour. And just like that, Council’s flagship beer was born — a testament to the power of pretty beer. “I guess we do drink with our eyes,” observes “the wild man,” Barrel Program Director Jeff Crane, who along with CEO Curtis Chism and his wife, Head Brewer Liz Chism, started the brewery.
In 2013, sour beers had not yet broken out in San Diego proper, and no brewery was making them consistently. “The first sour beer we bottled was the first sour beer ever bottled in San Diego,” says Crane. “We embraced it because there was a missing niche for sour beers,” Crane says.
After the sight of electric color comes a whiff of fruit and tartness that is reinforced with the first sip, bracingly sour. “It ended up being more sour than we intended it to be, partially because people wanted it more sour,” Crane says. Once inoculated with the sour bug, it seems San Diego beer drinkers craved a lot of tart.
The acidity is a harbinger of the flavors of real fruit: concentrated tart Ballentine cherry juice from Kings Orchard in Michigan for the Tart Cherry and raspberry puree from Oregon in the Tart Raspberry.
Crane, who met the Chisms at Quaff, a San Diego home brewers club, starts by brewing a low-alcohol saison on Council’s three-barrel system. “It’s about as pale a beer as you can get, so when you put fruit on it the color just pops. That’s how this line got going," Crane says.
Crane sees Beatitude as bridging the gap between classic Belgian fruit lambics and more restrained Berlinerweisse-style fruit beers, which have recently become popular. “It’s not as complex as a Belgian fruit lambic because we’re not using aged hops so we’re not getting any of that fun, funky blue cheese kind of thing into it. It doesn’t have that tannin body they get from having a super-starchy turbid mash kind of wort, and age it in oak barrels to get the oak tannins. It doesn’t have the big rough, tannin finish; it finishes quick and dry.
"It’s really built to let the fruits be the main show and have some nice acidity and a little fermentation character behind it. On the other hand, we have some brett fermentation character to separate us from Berlinerweisses. It allows us also to get to a price point where more people can experiment with it and start learning about these flavors," he says.
Crane says sour beers actually taste better out of the bottle than on draft. “You can’t get it to the proper carbonation on draft. You don’t get the re-fermentation character.”
When and Where
Crane enjoys drinking Council’s Beatitude sours on their own. “It’s like the ultimate weekend, being outside beer on a sunny day.” But these sours can also pair with cheese, where the fattiness of the cheese is undercut by the acidity of the beer. He has also experimented with adding a splash of one of the sour beers to champagne.
To get the most out of the fruit, Council recommends drinking the beer as soon as possible. But if you’re interested in exploring the brettanomyces character, let it age for a year or so. “It’s not necessarily going to get better with age, it’s just different,” Crane says.
-- 30 --