People had plenty of reasons to be sour on the second Sunday in February. The weather was dreary and wet, reminding us that the end of winter is nowhere in sight; BART was on limited Sunday service and many of the cars were unpleasantly pungent; football season ended last week and the opening day of baseball season is still many weeks away.
But beer lovers who slogged their way to downtown Berkeley had more reason to be sour than most. Sour Sunday at John Martin’s Triple Rock and Jupiter has become an annual highlight of San Francisco Beer Week. The Bay Area’s love affair with sour beers has if anything grown more intense over the past few years. Fortunately, the Bay Area is home to several fine brewers adept at coaxing the pucker out of wild yeast without destroying the beer.
Despite the soggy weather, this year’s annual sour event drew capacity crowds and beyond to Triple Rock and Jupiter, where customers dodged raindrops under plastic tents better suited for shielding people from summer sun than winter rain.
Triple Rock poured imported sour beers from the likes of Cantillon, To OL, Mikkeller, Drie Fontenein Strubbe and Fantome, as well as Sante Adairius from Santa Cruz. With the Triple Rock line stretched down Shattuck and around the block, we decided to enjoy Sour Sunday at nearby Jupiter with domestic sours from breweries such as Russian River, Drakes, Almanac, The Bruery, Jolly Pumpkin, Upright, Jester King, Crooked Stave, Prairie Artisan Ales, The Rare Barrel and Logsdon, among others.
Special bottles were opened and kegs were tapped at designated times of the day, creating a sense of anticipation. Feeding frenzies ensued like hungry sharks to chum when Almanac opened the taps for its lovely Brandy Barrel Peche at 2 p.m., when Russian River uncorked big bottles of 2009 Consecration at 3, and when Crooked Stave unleashed its Nightmare on Brett at 4.
Highlights included bottles of Jester King’s Boxer’s Revenge, a full-flavored farmhouse ale matured in oak whiskey and wine barrels—very funky indeed. Also outstanding was Prairie Artisan Ales’ BOMB!, an imperial stout with chocolate, cherry, vanilla and just a hint of ancho chiles. Almanac seldom disappoints, and its recent Brandy Barrel Peche is no exception. Ditto with The Rare Barrel’s Wise Guise (or Guys), a red ale aged in oak with raspberries.
Perhaps the most anticipated beers of the afternoon were Russian River’s Consecration 2009 and Crooked Staves’ Nightmare on Brett. Consecration, a Belgian style dark ale aged in American oak cabernet barrels with currants, was as intense and delicious as ever, with the bottle aging bringing out even more of the dried fruit nuances.
Crooked Stave from Denver has been raising eyebrows ever since it started popping up at selected locations around the Bay Area, and its limited edition brett Baltic porter aged in cognac barrels was the perfect complement for a dreary, sour Sunday afternoon.