Tonight's beer of honor was none other than Oaken Barrel's Berliner Weise - a sour beer that allows you, the customer, in on the fun by giving you a choice of syrups to add to the beer.
This is certainly an odd choice of beer to brew - only two commercially known version of the beer are available, and the process of brewing this particular style can be hazardous to a brewery's equipment. "Skull and Crossbones!" were the words used by assistant brewer Andrew Castner.
So why brew the style? The choice was inspired by head brewer Mark Havens' trip to Europe. After discussing the style, the two brewers headed to Shallos to give the available examples a whirl. Oaken Barrel is trying to introduce small batch beers throughout the year, in an effort to liven up their reputation. I'd say this is an excellent example of that effort.
The beer comes out without any syrup added, and looks like this:
But with a mix of sweet syrups soon looks like this:
From left to right: Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Kiwi
The taste without syrup: A malty, sort of ashy thing, with just a hint of sourness. Despite our initial concerns, this wasn't an overly sour beer, and goes quite well by itself.
The taste with syrup: Same sort of nose, but the taste is something different - the syrups add a tart and punchy sort of slushpuppy element. Really tasty. And pretty fun, actually.
This style won't last long - Mark thought it might last a week - so if you're interested, head on down soon. It's a beer experience you won't soon replicate.