Ever since I started writing about the beers I have brewed, Sour Cherries in the Snow is one of a couple that I’ve really been looking forward to. This is an incredible beer. Sour Cherries in the Snow could be commercialized and on stature with Lindemans Framboise Lambic. The wonderful cherry flavor with a slight hint of sour makes it nearly unrecognizable as a beer and reminiscent of a tart cider. A general crowd favorite and serious contender for one of the best beers I have ever brewed.
I have a good couple memories of making Sour Cherries in the Snow. Featured in Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing vol.3, this recipe, titled Cherries in the Snow, first appealed to me because of my then recently found interest in fruit beers. My sensei, good friend, and man responsible for starting me down the path of this addictive hobby, Steve Tillman, has a wizard-like mastery of fruit beers that I have never seen commercially or otherwise. I just don’t know how he does it. I figured this could be a good new recipe to flex my fruit beer muscles and really show my sensei how I could stand up to his prowess.
Originally this recipe calls for sour cherries. Now I didn’t have sour cherries at the time. To make up for using normal cherries, I decided I could compensate on the sourness by actually souring it instead. Sour is sour, right? And I like sour beers. Everything sounded perfect. I only found out later that when you sour beers, you use certain bacteria that actually create a controlled infection, imparting a variety of potentially wonderful flavors (The Mad Fermentationist has a great post on it). And because you use these special bacteria, you want to use a special set of equipment due to the fact that the bacteria can potentially reside on anything that interacts with the beer. I unknowingly infected my whole brew setup.
.5oz Santiam (6.6%AA) @60min
.5oz Tettnanger (4.8%AA) @60min
.5oz Santiam (6.6%AA) @15min
.5oz Tettnanger (4.8%AA) @15min
Wyeast Lambic Blend Yeast (3728)
10lbs Sweet Cherries @15min (should drop temp to ~160°-180°. Let steep for 15min)*
*You don’t want to boil or else the pectin in the fruit will set and cloud the beer
Souring beer takes time. Like way more time than normal brewing does. Many makers of sour beer typically like to let their beers age for a couple years to really develop the different flavors that souring can grant them. I let this beer sit for a year before I bottled it. Just to have a beer that you made sit untouched for a year before even being able to drink it, along with having to buy a whole replacement brew setup made this a really special beer for me. Sour Cherries in the Snow has also been an amazingly delicious beer to cellar over the years. I brewed this beer back in 6/2012 and the majority of the remaining bottles still live in CO. And since I only get back there at most twice a year now, I get to keep trying them almost a year apart.
Over the couple years I have been brewing, one important thing I’ve learned is who to share your really special beers with. I too often made the mistake of sharing some of my really special beers with a friend (not that you shouldn’t do that) but find out that they don’t necessarily understand what about this beer makes it so special. Whether it’s the age, price, remaining quantity, or skill put into a beer, there are certain beers that I don’t share with the friends who don’t appreciate beer. This is one of the beers. I only share beers like this with special people.
All things work out though. I now have a sour beer set, of which I actually just infected my second beer today (a Sour Trippel)! I’ll update you in a year.
Notes from Christmas, 2018:
Nice small bit of funk (very small lacto & other microbes), with fruit, cherry, plum, slightly slight candy smell like peach rings. Great cherry taste, small but of acidity, vary balanced, smooth mouthful with slightly astringent later. Red to dark red, ripe strawberry color. Very little oxidation. Little carbonation.