It’s really hard to beat the classics. Last summer’s sour beer renaissance highlighted several new (or relatively new) mouth “squinchers” such as Westbrook’s Gose and the Almanac Beer’s Cerise Sour Blonde, but none of them ever hit the sweet spot between ulcer-generating tang and jigsaw puzzle complexity of flavor. “Try something from Cascade,” a local craft beer geek suggested to me one night. “It’ll tear the enamel off your teeth.”
Being the pioneer of the Pacific Northwest-style sour movement since 2006, Cascade is a brewery that any sourhead should have some tabs on (my bad). Almost every batch enjoys at least a year in one of the brewery’s many French oak, wine, or bourbon casks alongside an abundance of spices and fruits that might include, but are not limited to, apricots, cherries, elderberries, strawberries, cassis… the list goes on. Calling their beers complex doesn’t even come close to justice.
Patience might be required when trying to obtain a bottle—they get picked off the shelves quickly—but not so much when popping the cork. Pouring the Elderberry into a snifter, the Northwestern brew featured a fair amount of carbonation with two fingers of khaki foam atop its dark, maroon-almost-black body. The cassis and raisins dominated the nose as the head receded, continuing to linger through the first sip. Yep, this one’s definitely a sipper, with the medium carbonation and dryness creating a champagne-like mouthfeel that adds to the lactobacillus’s tangy bite. Living up to Cascade’s fixation on the little intricacies, sweet boozy port notes and oak complement the beer’s namesake fruit along with some char notes. It’s probably a Portlandia off-set staple, minus all the birds.
Although Elderberry’s sourness doesn’t corrode your teeth as much as a Gose, its level of mouth-puckeringness allowed the brew to show off its huge depth of flavors. A $35 price tag might make justifying this bottle as a regular purchase pretty difficult, but it’s worth subduing your common sense for this one. Sorry in advance about that hole in your wallet.
Brewery: Cascade Brewing
City: Portland, Oregon
Style: Sour Ale
Availability: Rotating, 22 oz. bottles