Barrel + Beam, a craft brewery in Marquette, Michigan, packs pucker and amped-up aromatics into attention-worthy sour beers. Let’s go!
260 Northwoods Road, Marquette | 906.273.2559
Occupying the rad log building that once housed Marquette’s Northwoods Supper Club, Barrel + Beam, is the project of sour beer evangelists Nick and Marina VanCourt. Their taproom is a requisite stop on your food and brew pilgrimage to Marquette but lucky for us the B+B crew schleps their sour goodness south so we Mitten-bound fans can get a taste at a handful of local retailers and craft beer bars, a list of which is available on their website.
Barrel + Beam poured forth a few of their newest alchemies for us.
A French-sourced barrel sour loaded with Satsuma Oranges from Louisiana. Expect an exceptionally tart and snappy citrus forward sour ale with a complex wild yeast character. 6.2% ABV
A toasty and woody wild ale primed with U.P. maple syrup from White Bear Maple Products. Expect a delicate profile with notes of maple candy and caramel with medium-low funk and medium acidity. 6.6% ABV
A soon-to-be released barrel-aged wild ale featuring raspberries sourced from a Michigan company. 7.2% ABV
So, what is sour beer?
Sour beer began as a monastic mishap when wild yeasts and a host of other microflora took to partying in the barrels and open fermentation vessels stashed in the cellars of Trappist Abbeys. The net result was beer that looked like and smelled like beer but with amped up aromatics and tart electric acids that made those monk mouths water for more. Fast forward quite a few centuries and today we enjoy sour beer making informed by microbiology where bacteria like lactobacillus and acetobacter are precisely harnessed to give these beers a puckery verve that makes them refreshing on late summer afternoons and delicious companions to a wide array of foods.
You’ll find sours brewed and infused with a universe of seasonal fruits, botanicals and spices for definition. As most sour beers worthy of attention are cross blended and bottle- or barrel-fermented, they are labor-intensive and more costly to produce, making it a challenge to make a serious lean into this style. But we’ll take the good over the many any time when it comes to beer and we’re lucky to have talented new sour czars on the other side of the Straits.