The experimental nature of craft beer is one of its exciting assets. We often see the reinterpretation of classic beers or the fusion of styles in twisted, adjunct heavy mash ups, where the results are all about flavour. One style to recently appear epitomises this perfectly. I’m talking about the ice cream sour.
If you’re a fan of these beers, then you’ll know that Duncan’s Brewery has taken this style and really run with it over the last couple of years. I was lucky enough to catch up with George Duncan, self-styled master of confected brews and co-owner of Duncan’s, in an effort to garner more about today’s beer and the style in general. Here’s what I learnt…
Ice cream sours combine vanilla and lactose to flavour and alter a sour beer base - typically a kettle soured beer. For George, the whole purpose is to invoke the creamy and sweet sensation of ice cream. You can only get so far with the non-fermentable sugars in lactose (the use of which is a throwback to milk stouts) and so the vanilla addition here is really important.
It's still a super-niche style and is yet to be adopted by the BJCP but, for George, it’s really an extension of the fruited Lambic. His inspiration is found in pushing this evolution forwards and also in emulating some of the more cutting-edge sours currently being made in the US and around the world.
I asked George what people should expect from this beer and his reply was that it is all about delivering what it says on the can. This isn’t a beer about subtlety and nuance which, let’s face it, are subjective notions. This is a beer that will take you back to the joys of childhood desserts, ice cream sundaes and rich milkshakes with its big, sweet flavours. There’s a refreshing honesty about this.
So, with a keenness to revisit my childhood, I cracked the can and gave it a whirl.
As you may know, I am a bit of a beer purist who is now enjoying being pushed in directions he might not typically venture, and this is exactly where this beer takes you. The flavours compliment and pleasantly clash in equal measures, in an experience that ebbs and flows as you work your way through the beer. At one moment it’s all about sour pineapples, then the creamy vanilla takes over before the chocolate shows its hand.
An intriguing taste sensation that is somehow creamy, sour and even subtly bitter all at once. This may do exactly what it says on the can, but it’s more a thinking beer than you might expect. If you’re into trying to suss out exactly what it is you’re drinking, and not just quenching a thirst, then give it a go, and revisit those pineapple lumps of yesteryear.