Lambic is a sour ale that originated and is traditionally brewed in Belgium. In recent years, this style has gained popularity, and several craft breweries throughout the United States are now brewing sour ales including Upland Brewing Company, located in Bloomington, Indiana.
Other US craft breweries brewing this style include Russian River Brewing (Cal.), New Glarus Brewing (Wis.), Cascade Brewing Company (Cal.), New Belgium Brewing (Col.), Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, (Mich.) and Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago).
Unlike ales and lagers, which are very carefully monitored with cultivated yeasts, lambics and sour ales are exposed to wild yeasts during fermentation. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its characteristic dry, cidery flavor with a sour finish.
Whole fruits are usually added after fermentation for fruit lambics. Some traditional fruits include Kriek (cherries), Frambroise (raspberries), Pêche (peach) and Cassis (black currant).
After the fruit has been added, the beer is further aged before bottling. The profile of these beers will be dominated by fruit, with low malt and hop characteristics. Generally the alcohol level is low, but can range from 3.0% – 8.0% ABV, and they are great candidates for cellaring.
Upland Brewing Company brews several styles of sour ale. Some of them are Belgian-style lambics (Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Kiwi, Peach, Persimmon, Raspberry, Strawberry), to which whole fruits are added while the beer is aging in oak casks.
Others are wild ales like Dantalion Dark Wild Ale, Permission Slip, Vinosynth Red and Viola. Like Upland’s lambics, these sour ales are aged for extended periods of time in oak casks.
Because of the time and space devoted to these beers, they are generally more expensive and more difficult to acquire than regular production beer. More often than not, you will have to travel to a brewery to purchase these beers instead of picking them off the shelf at your local bottle shop.
Many times, these are limited releases, and in the case of Upland’s sours, there is a lottery involved to achieve the opportunity to purchase one or two of these bottles.
However, in 2010, some bottles of Upland’s lambics did get distributed throughout the state, and I still have a couple of bottles that I purchased at Chalet Party Shoppe. These bottles can age quite well and have the capability of gaining complexity in flavors with time.
This past summer I opened a bottle of Upland Strawberry lambic (2010 vintage) with a friend. Although this style is not for everyone’s palate, I have acquired a taste for sour ales and lambics. This beer had a pleasant combination of funky, sour, earthy and grassy notes, with flavors of sweet strawberry and other citrus fruits.
I also had the recent opportunity to acquire a bottle each of Viola and Vinosynth Red from a friend in the Indianapolis area. In July, Upland Brewing took Best in Show at the Indiana Brewer’s Cup competition with Vinosynth Red. It is a collaboration with Oliver Winery and is a blend of 50 percent Sour Reserve and 50 percent Malefactor Flanders-style Red Ale aged on Catawba grapes.
Beginning Thursday, October 2, Upland Brewing will open an online lottery for the release of its most recent prized sour ales: Kiwi, Dantalion, and Permission Slip. If interested, you will have one week, until Thursday, October 9, to enter the lottery. Visit uplandsours.eventbrite.com for your chance to win.
If you win, chances are you will win only an opportunity to purchase a maximum of one bottle each of the three styles. Lottery winners will be randomly drawn and notified via email on October 13, and can purchase the bottle(s) they were awarded at either the Bloomington Brewpub or Indianapolis Tasting Room in Broad Ripple.
However, you will need to specify your preference at the time of entry. Pickup dates are October 22 through November 5, and pickup locations cannot be changed after a reservation request has been made.
Each corked and caged bottle will cost $25 plus applicable sales tax. If you are interested in a sour brewery tour, offered at 4 p.m. November 1 and 3 and at 3 p.m., 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on November 2, you should choose the Bloomington pub location as your pickup location. You can reserve a spot on the tour by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the brewery descriptions of each of these sour ales:
Kiwi Lambic: Upland lambics are fermented by wild yeast and aged in oak casks for over a year, which creates a tart, complex beer. We then add whole kiwis, giving the beer enticing aromas and flavors. The beer is bottle conditioned, which adds a zesty and refreshing carbonation. Kiwi Lambic is the perfect drink to share with friends over a plate of good cheese and fresh fruit.
Permission Slip : A brand new collaboration beer with our friends at Jolly Pumpkin. Permission Slip is a unique blend of two base beers. The first beer, brewed at Jolly Pumpkin, features raw wheat and flaked oats for a soft mouthfeel, intrinsic flavors of JP’s house yeast, and aromatic Mosaic and Amarillo hop additions, all aged on Indiana persimmons. The second beer is Upland Sour Reserve, refermented for 3 months on fresh Dragonfruit. Blended together these beers create a melange of peach, apricot, and tropical fruit flavors with Belgian yeast character and polite lactic and acetic acid. Please enjoy with friends over grilled pineapple and pulled pork.
Dantalion: Dantalion is our demonically named sour ale based on the Oud Bruin beer style. Medium brown in color, Dantalion has hints of chocolate, Munich malts, and rye. We also incorporate a spice blend containing ginger, coriander, star anise, grains of paradise, and black pepper to create a gentle halo of spice character. The beer is fermented on the same selection of yeasts and microbes as our base lambic, and aged for up to 8 months or more in white oak barrels.
Upland Brewing Company’s Bloomington Brewpub expansion will open on Friday, October 10. The new space will include a new bar, new bathrooms and a custom community table created by local artisans Siosi Design + Build.
In addition to giveaways, music, food and lots of beer, the brewery will feature a “throwback burger” menu throughout the month of October featuring prices from its opening year of 1998.
If you use social media, Upland would like to know your thoughts when visiting their new space using #uplandbtown.
Upland beers are distributed throughout the state of Indiana and are available at both bottle shops and on draft at your favorite pub and restaurant.
As I was writing, I decided to open a sour/wild ale from one of my favorite breweries, Surly Pentagram (6.66% ABV, IBUs 14). This is an annual release in 22 oz. bottles, which gets limited distribution throughout the state of Minnesota. The brewery description is as follows:
100% Brettanomyces (Brett) Dark beer fermented stainless and aged in used red wine barrels. “Brett” is a unique yeast strain that produces flavors that would be considered offensive if they were not intentional. Flavors of sour cherry, tobacco, oak and classic “Brett” barnyard funkbalanced by dark munich mall chewiness.
The bottle that I opened was of 2014 vintage, and was much more enjoyable and not as dry as many of the sour ales brewed with brett that I have tasted recently. There was a dry finish, but only after a juicy, fruity beginning, and a funky tart middle to the flavor.
With a bit of complexity, I could easily see this beer paired with a nice fall harvest meal in place of a red wine. In fact, I also have a 2013 vintage bottle in my cellar that just might make an appearance at a family meal this coming holiday season. Unfortunately, Surly currently only distributes in the state of Minnesota.