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Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019



Sonoma Tart, Bear Republc Brewing Co.

by Randy Scorby
Sonoma Tart
Bear Republic Brewing Co.

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Brewmaster Roger Herpst Talks Sonoma Tart

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
I developed this recipe in collaboration with a team of brewers who brewed pilot batches in our nano and pub brewhouses. It was an awesome example of teamwork in the brewery— our excellent Lab Analyst Natasha Sana ran bench trials on different strains of lacto and brewed the initial nano batches, while our brewpub team knocked out a successful 15-bbl batch, followed by an amazing collaboration between our maintenance team and Head Brewer Rob Kent ensuring that the dedicated equipment was in place to sour 50-bbl batches of wort for full-scale production. It was super fun to work closely with the whole team on a new process, new bugs, and new equipment. All in the service of a delicious beer.

What sets this beer apart from other examples within the style?
This is a hard beer to nail down stylistically, but the quality shines through. Passion fruit and guava certainly were not traditional gose ingredients, and we were not adding table salt or coriander to this brew. We’ve taken to describing Sonoma Tart as a contemporary gose, where its bright acidity, gentle malt bill and subtle fruity character give this ale a flavor profile similar to a Sauvignon Blanc.

What makes this beer truly world-class?
The consistent, excellent flavor profile of Sonoma Tart is the direct result of carefully planned brewing procedures, the use of high-quality ingredients, and a team of dedicated brewers, cellar people and packaging operators. Each step of the brewing process is critical to ensuring quality, from the selection of a flavorful lactobacillus strain that sours wort in a dedicated anaerobic fermenter, to blending sweet and sour wort in the kettle. Additions of the right amount of fruit at the right time during fermentation as well as meticulously controlling transfer and packaging operations are also critical. I couldn’t be more proud of the Bear Republic team.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
Bear Republic is known as a premier brewer of India Pale Ale, so it has been very gratifying to see Sonoma Tart introduce our brews to drinkers who wouldn’t necessarily order an IPA or hoppy pale. Even more satisfying is seeing the hardcore hop heads at our pub who normally drink Racer 5 or Thru the Haze IPA embrace this crisp sour beer. Sonoma Tart has become a mainstay in our year-round lineup, and I’m looking forward to brewing even more in 2020.

Judge’s Second Opinion

Whenever I mention or talk about sour beer styles to my “not quite as beer nerdy as me” friends, their reactions range from comical to horrified. “You like that stuff??,” “Sour beer, are you kidding me??,” ”Why would you ever want to drink anything like that??”

Those are all fair questions, I suppose, until you become a sour beer geek like me. Sour beer styles, although rightfully rapidly gaining popularity, are not what most people typically reach for or visit their local brewpub to find. But when you are lucky enough to find excellent examples of them, they can be some of the most satisfying, complex and enjoyable beers on the market. The best examples display a light to prominent hit of clean, lactic sourness (and maybe, depending on the style, a touch of acetic sourness) that is balanced with the malt or any adjuncts that may be present. Regardless, the sourness must be in balance and harmony with the beer itself.

Most fruit typically lends itself well to sourness, which is where Sonoma Tart excels as a sour beer. The passion fruit and guava are fresh and bright in the aroma and they are complemented by a light, clean tartness with a wave of candied orange and light bready malt to round it out. The deep, hazy yellow appearance and lingering white head draws you in even more, beckoning the drinker to taste it. The flavor is a journey of its own, taking the drinker on a roller coaster ride of guava, candied orange, pineapple and mango. The tart and fruity finish makes this a very refreshing beer no matter what the season is, but admittedly it would really hit the spot during the warm summer months.

What makes Sonoma Tart so special is the complexity that is provided by combining the fruit, base malt and lactic sourness. Although the fruit takes center stage, the sourness and malt character offer a supporting cast that truly sets this beer apart and pushes it into being a world-class example.

For those of you out there who love sour beer, Sonoma Tart is an absolute must to have on your beer wish list. For those of you out there who have thumbed your nose at sour beer in the past, this one just may be the gateway beer to introduce you to a lifetime exploration of sour beer styles. Regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, Bear Republic hit a home run with Sonoma Tart, and it deserves your undivided attention. - Randy Scorby


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