Five years ago, during a (probable) rainy day in Seattle, Atomic Liquors general manager Rose Signor tried her first sour beer, Duchesse de Bourgogne by Verhaeghe. She credits it with not only opening up her palate to the tart flavors of brews intentionally infected with bacteria, but also to craft beer in general. And now, she’s celebrating her love of the style with the fourth-annual Sour Saturday at Atomic, November 5 from 1 to 5 p.m. ($50).
The acceptance of sours has grown dramatically in recent years. Signor recalls half of the Petrus Aged Red—the first sour tap at Atomic three years ago—getting sent back by customers. Now, an event that started by pouring 10 beers for about 30 guests has grown into a destination mini-festival showcasing 46 breweries and an anticipated 500 attendees.
Signor credits the 2014 arrival of boutique liquor distributor Vin Sauvage with changing the Vegas craft beer scene, primarily due to its association with the Shelton Brothers portfolio, which she refers to as “the crème de la crème of sour beers.”
Vin Sauvage’s David Bowers—aka The Beer Guy—first experienced a sour via a New Belgium La Folie, which he hated so much, “I wanted to punch the guy in the neck who gave it to me.” Now he’s arguably the biggest local advocate of the style. He attributes the growing sophistication of palates to an ever-expanding cocktail culture and omnipresent Food Network coverage. “We did IPAs, and that grew like crazy,” he says. “And [then] you look for something else.”
Out-of-market breweries pouring in this year’s VIP section include Shmaltz Brewing’s three-year vertical (2014-2016) of Jewbelation, a barrel-aged sour anniversary beer brewed with an increasing number of malts and hops and higher ABV. Vin Sauvage has procured a trio of beers from the Texas hill country outside Austin by cult-favorite Jester King: Mad Meg Farmhouse Provision Ale, Hibernal Dichotomous Winter Saison and Wytchmaker Farmhouse Rye IPA.
Highlighted offerings from brewers whose beers are available locally include Upright Brewing’s barrel-aged Shades cherry wild ale and Logsdon Farmhouse Ales’ award-winning oak-aged Peche ‘n Brett. Local brewers will also be in the mix, like Lovelady Brewery’s Angry Hawaiian (a jalapeño-infused version of its caramelized pineapple sour 9th Island) and PT’s Brewing Company’s Apricot Sour.
It won’t be all drinking. Sour Saturday also includes an educational component, a demonstration in which a gose will be brewed for all five hours. And as a special treat, the Atomic Lucky Draw will award a few lucky winners with pours of Cantillion Gueuze and Kriek—or, as Bowers likes to refer to them, “unicorn tears for beer geeks.”
Signor has high hopes for Sour Saturday. “This festival is my baby, and I want it to [grow to] a nationally-known scale where people travel from across the country,” she says. “I want there to be thousands of people, rather than hundreds.”