THE FIRST TIME I SAMPLED intentionally sour beer, my tastebuds lit up like a pinball machine. It was the Tart Lychee Ale from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing—stringent and fruit-forward, with a crackling dry finish, it was unlike any beer I’d had.
I remember thinking how perfectly it would pair with cheese, or Thai food, or just about anything.
“It’s a great palate cleanser,” agrees Ron Gansberg, the head brewer at Cascade Brewing Co, “much better than a hoppy IPA, because they tend to leave too much hop flavor in your mouth.”
My tasting tour of the recently opened Cascade Barrel House at SE Ninth Avenue and Belmont Street involved sampling more than a dozen of Gansberg’s sour beers, each more nuanced than the one before. It was proof positive that these distinctive Belgian-style brews, infused with a variety of fresh fruit and spices, are up to the task of expanding the palates of local drinkers looking for a new kick. From the rich, spicy Cascade Kriek, fermented with regionally harvested cherries, to the Sang-Rouge, a blend of nine different red ales, the flavors are much more organic than your standard brews. In fact, once a sour has been sealed in its barrel, there’s no way to predict the flavor outcome.
Beer-curious locals should be thrilled to know that the Barrel House will feature 16 beers on tap at a time. Whether it’s a fasten-your-seat-belt sour like the Bourbonic Plague, aged for a year in bourbon barrels and measured out to a skull-smashing 12.1 percent alcohol, or a more familiar IPA or pale ale, all tastes will be accommodated. “This is a journey,” Gansberg says of the Cascade ethos. “But we want everyone to be a part of it.”