Imperial Sour Ale brewed with Tart Cherry Juice
New York State ranks 4th for tart cherry production in the US, with the majority of the acreage located in four Western New York Counties located about 2 hours from our brewery. We source our tart cherry juice from a grower in Niagara County on the shores of Lake Ontario where the glaciated soils and lake-tempered northern climate are ideal for growing tart cherries. Tart cherries are known as a “super food” and their price reflects this moniker. They have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of any food, a truly brilliant red color, and a clean, bright, juicy aroma and flavor that’s accentuated by their natural acidity.
We maintain a culture of Lactobacillus buchneri that is used to sour wort over three days, starting at a pH of 5.5 and finishing around 3.4. After souring is complete, the wort is boiled, hopped, spiced, cooled, and pitched with our house ale strain of yeast. After roughly 24 hours of fermentation, the tart cherry concentrate is added directly to the fermentation vessel. Exactly when the cherry juice is added is a delicate balancing act of adding the juice (more sugar) early enough so that the fermentation will complete, but late enough that the delicate flavors, aromas, and colors of the juice are preserved as much as possible. It would be a travesty to add such beautiful and rare juice to hot wort, don’t you think?
The finished beer is a striking, lustful shade of red with a persistent white head and durable lacing thanks to the large portion of wheat in the grist. The nose is defined by equal parts bright lactic acidity and cherry notes with a hint of coriander. On the palate, the strong lactic acidity is accentuated by the natural tartness of the cherry juice. Quantitatively, this beer is quite sweet, but we find that this level of residual sweetness is just enough to balance the acidity and that the overall perception of the beer is actually quite dry. The beer finishes very clean and in conjunction with the salt in the finish, it definitely makes you want to come back for more.
FOOD PAIRINGS: Grilled fish, eggs Benedict, ceviche
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