Not the Same Old, Same Old

by | Aug 19, 2022

Sour beer plus fruit purée, smoothie sour beers defy expectation. Unless, of course, you desire ‘beer-flavored beer’

Perhaps it was inevitable, at least here in the Pacific Northwest: a hybrid beer built around two popular styles. The smoothie sour — a mashup of sorts between a sour ale and the hazy IPA — arrived about a year ago and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Dan Russo has been at the forefront of the movement. The director of brewing operations at Oregon’s Oakshire Brewing is responsible for creating quite a few lately and has a special fondness for the style. First things first, though: What exactly is it?

“A smoothie sour beer, at its essence, is a beer that starts with a sour beer base and adds large amounts of unfermented fruit puree to create a mouthfeel, taste and appearance that resembles fruit smoothies,” he says. “Since then, breweries have taken it even further and begun creating culinary-inspired smoothies with ingredients such as spices, ice cream and cheesecake mix to create liquid representations of baked confections.”

Overall, Russo thinks the style has been a pro for the industry, although he says it has polarized drinkers a bit.

“On one hand, it has brought on a whole new set of beer drinkers that may have never liked or experienced beer before,” he says, adding that it’s also invigorated those tired of the same old, same old. “The other side, however, is the old guard of craft beer drinkers who think the beers are a monstrosity, or not even beer at all and vehemently opposed them and yell to the mountain tops, ‘give me beer-flavored beer!’”

Brewers like Russo are drawn to the uniqueness of it all. He says the colors are incredibly photogenic (just take a look a Drekker’s social media feed). Interestingly, he believes there’s some crossover with the hard seltzer crowd. With a bursting array of fresh fruit flavors and some tartness, smoothie sours appeal to the White Claw camp. Bigger breweries, of course, have simply opted to make their own seltzers. But not every label can afford to do so and making something like a smoothie sour can fill the gap.

Russo believes the style can also serve as an enchanting gateway beer to the world of craft. Something like Oakshire’s mango passion fruit mint smoothie sour, made with vanilla bean and marshmallow creme, is pretty irresistible, even for somebody who doesn’t claim to love beers. And as Russo adds, there’s a culinary aspect to the whole thing, too. Foodies are surely drawn to the sheer number of adjuncts in the picture, making for some decidedly complex beer recipes. Combine all that and you have yourself a pretty compelling flame that the craft-loving moths of the Pacific Northwest are bound to be drawn to.

The smoothie sour train is not chugging quite like it was late last summer, though it’s still very much a thing. With summer on its way and smoothies being all the more appealing, watch out for more producers getting into the category. These eye-catching beers continue to light up social media feeds and get gobbled up at release parties all over the country. And surely, with so many ingredients and permutations at hand, new gems have yet to be made.

“There is definitely still a huge market for it and room for plenty more,” Russo says.

This story originally published in the summer issue of Sip Magazine. Click here to read the full edition.

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