Beer Sherpa Recommends: Breakside La Tormenta

Tart ales are, like tropical rainforests, strange, fecund places that give many people the willies.  Some just don't like acidity--fair enough.  But for others, tart ales are filled with unknowable flavors that may be as lovely as small, colorful songbirds or vicious and aggressive as carnivorous snakes.  Because of the variability, they prefer not to risk it.  They leave tart ales to the fanatics.

Because of the wide variability of this broad category, that seems to be where we have landed: sour ales attracts fanatics and wards everyone else off.  I am sympathetic.  I was an early proponent of tart ales, back in the mid-90s when they mainly came from the relatively civilized wilds of Flanders and Payottenland.  I came to adore gueuze, which, in my own idiosyncratic view, is the most accomplished beer style in the world.  Yet I've stumbled across enough terrible, gone-wrong science experiments passed off as potables that I, too, have become gun-shy. 

Which brings us to a new release by Breakside called La Tormenta.  It's got several things going for it that make it one of the most approachable tart ales in recent memory.  For one, it's dry-hopped, which gives it a point of familiarity.  I don't know why brewers don't use hops more to accent tartness--fruity flavors and acid are a perfect marriage.  Second, it's a lacto-soured beer, so it doesn't have the more exotic flavors that come from


and other microorganisms.  Finally, it's a nicely balanced beer, with plenty besides the acidity going on.  (La Tormenta seems an odd name for a crowd-pleasing ale--at least until you learn it means "the storm," not "the tormentor.")

The brewery relied on Equinox, a newer hop, for this batch, and it produces a lot of wonderful citrusy and fruity notes--lemongrass and passion fruit tinged with white wine grape.  The clean lactic tartness frames these flavors, and caramel malts tie them together by adding a hint of sweetness.  It should be in stores now, which is good news for anyone planning on feasting this week.  Although a robust 7%, it is light and palate-cleaning.  On a day when heavy, sweet foods can overwhelm, tart ales can help scrub the tongue for more feasting.  (And boon of boons, it's apparently getting sold for $6 a bomber, which is wonderfully reasonable pricing for specialty beer.)

Go grab a bottle before Thursday--