I recall back in 2008 or so drinking my first beer by a shiny new brewery up in Plover (that's in central Wisconsin, for any non-Cheeseheads) called O'so Brewing
. It was a Duzy Piwo, tasty blonde ale that seemingly disappeared from shelves as quickly as it had arrived. Hoppier pastures beckoned, I guess.
O'so has been around for about eight years now and recently introduced a couple of new beers. Liquid Soul, an imperial stout, is the brewery's latest winter seasonal. Infectious Groove, a Berliner Weisse and polar opposite of the big, black stout, has been added to their year-round line-up. The Berliner Weisse is a sour wheat bier and, while Wisconsin breweries have had sour brews available all year long, I think Infectious Groove may be the first native one in six packs. It would appear that sour beers have truly gone microbrewing mainstream here in Wisconsin.
Infectious Groove is made by what's known as kettle souring. Instead of the bier becoming infused with bacteria from the air or some kind of storage vessel as it ages, lactobacillus bacteria are added to the boil kettle – the kettle in which grains and water are boiled – without the heat and allowed to sit for anywhere from one to several days. During this time the bacteria, like their brewing yeast brethren, eat some of the sugars from the grain. But instead of pooping out alcohol and carbon dioxide, the bacteria give us lactic acid which gives the Berliner Weisse its trademark tartness. With their job being done, heat is applied once more and the bacteria are killed.
This method of souring beer is relatively quick, easy, and easy to control. I'm sure any brewer out there will also tell you that this is a vastly oversimplified description or at least a very incomplete one of how brewers sour their beers without resorting to lengthy aging processes. While I am certainly no expert nor a particularly experienced consumer of sour beers, I think the big takeaway from this is that when you sour a beer by adding a particular bacteria from a packet purchased from a lab, you get a clean kind of sour. You're limiting things to a single strain of bacteria instead of the being at the mercy of what the wind blows your way or what lurks the pores of wood in a barrel. It's a trade-off, I guess. Ease, quickness, controllability, and a narrower band of flavors vs. the lengthier time, more difficulty, and the wider band of flavors of stochasticity.
OK, let's get back to Infectious Groove.
It pours a dark yellow and is quite turbid. No filtering here. I got a medium white head that dissipated rather quickly and I noticed only a few bubbles going up my glass. It didn't look like a champagne of the North.
The aroma had a really nice lemony tartness which I'd expect from a Berliner Weisse. But I also caught an unexpected berry sweetness which was quite pleasant. Would I taste this fruitiness? Not initially, at least. Infectious Groove proved to be a very sour bier with a big lemony/citrusy tartness. I find that most sour brews taste extremely tart at first but that my tongue acclimates itself to the acidity and so the beer tastes less sour as the session goes on. The same is true here but Infectious Groove lost less tartness than most sour beers I've had. As my sipping continued I noticed a sort of vegetable-like funkiness reveal itself. It was not fruity and it was not a moldy, barnyard, wet blanket kind of thing either. I'd never tasted anything like it in a bier. It was pleasant, pretty mellow, and complemented the familiar lemon tartness well.
Behind all of the tartness I caught a rather pronounced bit of wheat/grain. A welcome surprise as the grains are usually quite subdued in my experience with this style. Lastly there was some carbonation that added to the general acidulousness of the bier.
The finish was lemony and funky with the tanginess lingering. There wasn't much in the way of Schaumhaftvermoegen
to be had aside from a few small spots of foam.
If we here in Wisconsin are to have a year-round Berliner Weisse for the first time (or at least the first time in 100+ years) then we are lucky to have Infectious Groove. It has a nice light body and, although it may not look like a champagne of the North, it has a nice fizziness to it which will no doubt be welcome in the dog days of summer. It does come in at 4.8% A.B.V. which is a bit higher than traditional dictates, though. What really makes it stand out to me is that the graininess is not buried underneath all the tartness (really couldn't taste hops, however) and that it maintains a good, solid sour throughout. The initial blast of sourness lessens but not greatly. And I should mention the other funky tart flavor which, although unidentified, added some depth to the overall flavor as well as a nice complement to the citrus sour.
I also want to mention that I also drank some Infectious Groove mit Schuss – some waldmeister (woodruff) syrup in my case. The tartness held up really well as I was able to produce an admixture that was both tart and slightly sweet with a pronounced waldmeister flavor. Most impressive.
I've read that Infectious Groove is replacing Memory Lane, a pilsner, in O'so's line-up. As a lager lover I am saddened to hear this. But Infectious Groove is a worthy and very tasty bier and it eases my sadness. Greatly.
Junk food pairing: I personally like potato chips with my Berliner Weisse. Plain works fine but lemon & pepper or lemon & rosemary ones are great as they complement the bier's tartness well.
Labels: Beer, Berliner Weisse, O'so Brewing Company