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Sauerra Nevada Pale Ale

July 20, 2009

The Schönebrau keller is experiencing an outbreak of brettanomyces. It is the bacterial bane of the winemaker and the best buddy of the Belgian brewer, one of the many microscopic madballs looking to invade burgeoning beer with uncanny flavors and aromas. As infections go, brett is not the baddest. The bizarro universe of off-tastes includes the likes of eau de sun stricken opossum sweatsocks and mange vinaigrette. Brett on the other hand can co-produce citric sourness without mucking up other characteristics of the beer. It’s even a required element of some Belgian and Californian beer styles.

Awry or Aight?

Summer Sour

Our last two batches of beer were devised as clones of the greatest summer beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. One whiff of the fermenting buckets revealed something else. This was especially discouraging since two previous batches of hefeweizen were rendered undrinkable, one a public embarrassment. Disillusion set in and weeks lapsed before we finally got around to bottling.

Pucker Up

Pucker Up

Well today we cracked our first bottle of Sauerra Pale Ale while bottling the second batch. Faith restored! It’s completely delicious despite being not at all what we were shooting for. The brett sourness blends seamlessly into the lemony Cascade hops to make a terrifically refreshing summer beer. The taste is right out of Russian River Brewing, somewhere between Redemption (Belgian blonde ale) and Sanctification (100% brettanomyces ale), but lighter and less alcoholic than both.

Taking a sip transports me back to the rolling hills of the northern California countryside.

What a gift, this bacterial infection.


I’ve since learned that brettanomyces alone does not produce the above mentioned sour flavors. The most direct culprit is in fact pediococcus, a lactic acid bacteria, also sought after in Belgian lambics. Brettanomyces and pediococcus can be complimentary, and for all I know we’ve got both. Good news is that batch two of Sauerra turned out even better.

For those of you looking to get the original, wonderful Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in Berlin, I’ve found one store that sells it in Friedrichshain. Ironically enough, it’s right across the street from last month’s “beers of the world” festival at which California went completely unrepresented. It’s going to cost you about 4€ for a 12 oz. (.35 l) bottle, but no question it’s worth it. Great little shop too.

Karl Marx Allee 56 (Strausberger Platz)
10243 Berlin (F-Hain)
030 249 21 46
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