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Let’s learn about the flavors of Wild & Sour beers.

Starting June 18th to the 24th, Bittercreek Alehouse will kick off Funk Fest, an annual tradition celebrating wild and sour beers. My knowledge of beer is pretty surface level, but since the inception of this event, the staff at Bittercreek has released a super secret book of beer facts and information that not many ever get to see. So I thought I’d share some of the knowledge that’s been left behind.


Funky Beers are generally defined by two sets of flavor families: “sourness” and “wildness”. Not all Funky Beers have both, but most do, usually in varying proportions. To understand either, it helps to know why those flavors exist and how they are usually described. We categorize these families by calling them Tart & Funky, or Brett & Wild. . . Here’s why

Tart & Funk

Sourness happens in a beer because of Bacteria. Bacterial fermentation produces a lot of things, but mostly it produces acid, which we perceive as sour. Not all sourness is created equal though. For example, if you try lactic acid in a water solution it will taste sour, and only sour. Bacteria though, can produce multiple types of acid in addition to other flavor compounds.

NERD ALERT! According to Tony Rau, at Odell Brewing, Lactobacillus is the process of consuming any sugar in the beer not consumed by the brewers yeast which produces a primary and secondary metabolites. The primary metabolite is lactic acid, which gives sour beers their classic, clean, lemon-like tartness. The secondary metabolites include propyl acetate, which is reminiscent of pear, ethyl propanoate which smells like fresh pineapple or kiwi, and octanal, a floral to fruity character that occurs naturally in citrus fruits. The levels of these compounds depends on the populations of different Lactobacillus species either naturally present in the barrels or inoculated from a stock.

General tasting notes: Sour, acidic, tart
Specific tasting notes: Cherry, Lemon, balsamic, yogurt, currant

Brett & Wild

The second flavor family of Funky beer is “wildness”. The words wild, brett, and funk are used interchangeably by some to describe the farmy barnyardiness that traditionally soured beers have. These flavors come from the yeast brettanomyces, commonly called Wild Yeast or “Brett”.

Unlike normal brewer’s yeast, which prefers only to consume specific simple sugars, Brett will chew on all sorts of compounds found in beer, doing so aggressively in environments where brewers yeast will have given up. The result of this fermenting ferocity is beers that are bone dry and lively, making Brett ideal for bottle conditioning. While Brett can also be used as a solo fermenter, it is typically part of a team, working in concert with brewer’s yeast, bacteria, and often more Brett. Up to nine Brett strains have been isolated in a single Belgian Lambic. It is also not uncommon for Brett to be added after primary fermentation is complete, still yielding bunches of Brett Character.

General tasting notes: Wild, Funky, Bretty, farmy.
Specific tasting notes: Cut Hay, Pineapple, Pasture, Barnyard, Sweaty Horse Blanket, Tropical Fruit.

Why Does it Matter?

Because knowing fun facts that you can share with your friends not only makes you look super cool, it also helps you better understand why these beers have such fun and unique flavors. So this coming Funk Fest when you come in to try a flight of some of our unique beer offerings you can say “this one is brett & wild, and this one is tart and funky!” either way we hope this helps you better navigate the Funk Fest landscape this June 18th to the 24th at Bittercreek Alehouse.

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