There can only be one undistributed beer of the week. The competition is fierce in San Diego's beer community, but someone has to take the title. This week's best undistributed beer is...
Karl Strauss Brewing Company: Cactus Sour
ABV: 5% ABV
Pair with: Tacos of any kind
A tasty sour on a hot summer day can prove to be just the ticket, especially if it's anything like this delicious cactus sour from Karl Strauss Brewing Company's La Jolla location.
Karl Strauss' Quality Control Manager and Barrel Program Manager, Shawn Steele, shared details about what goes into making this week's pick. Steele explained that with this sour, the barrel is to thank for the overall flavor. The beer tastes rightfully sour, but also offers sweeter, rich fruit and honey notes - even though the only fruit-tasting ingredient used in this brew is prickly pear cactus.
"It's all in the barrel," Steele said. "It's a wild blonde sour ale spontaneously fermented in a tequila barrel with brettanomyces (yeast) and lactobacillus (bacteria). Secondary fermentation in the barrel with prickly pear and nopales (cactus pads) gives this beer a complex sour taste and notes of fruity agave."
The nopales and tequila barrels work well together and provide a deep flavor to the sour that is not so easy to pinpoint. The beer has notes of earthiness from honey, sweet tones from the agave-flavor of tequila but the balance of all of these things is pretty outstanding. Steele explained that the use of these two things, plus prickly pear, gives the beer a connection to the desert.
"[It's] sour with hints of oak, agave, honey and prickly pear. It has a dry, earthy finish that really ties the whole tasting experience together," Steele said. "Playing off the tequila barrel and the use of cactus resulted in an unique sour beer."
Overall, the Cactus Sour is enjoyable because it comes in at a nice 5% ABV, making it sessionable, yet strong enough in flavor to hold its own against Karl Strauss' competitive lineup of wine-barreled beers, deep stouts and hazy IPAs. The Cactus Sour is "sour" by definition, but not overly tart, for those who want something semi-sweet, or for those who'd like to avoid mouth-puckering beers.
What lingers for me is the prickly pear, which leaves you with a fruit-forward taste that perfectly compliments the smooth, dry finish.
This beer is currently available to try on tap at Karl Strauss Brewing Company, La Jolla. Get it while it's cold!
Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 1044 Wall St., La Jolla. karlstrauss.com