On a sunny weekend in March, in the historic Mavris event center, Upland Brewing hosted their eighth annual festival devoted entirely to sour ales. With two floors in the event center full of vendors, from right here in the Hoosier state & beyond, the festival was impressive from the moment you walked in. As far as events go, it was extremely organized. Upon arrival, each guest received a tasting glass and a passport to keep track of your favorite drinks of the day. Much appreciated was the fact that the passport included detailed maps of where specific vendors were located, as well as pointing out where the food was and where you could cleanse your palate with some champagne velvet (which I could have drank a whole pint of, that stuff is so dang good). It can be easy to be overwhelmed with so many vendors, but the map really helped to guide your way through the event, and although seemingly a simple gesture, made the day much more enjoyable for us.
What stands out for me when comparing this event to other beer festivals is the amount of variety in vendors. There were the Indiana staples, of course – from Taxman to 3 Floyds, Sun King to Black Acre – but there were breweries there from California (Mikkeller), Colorado (Trve), and New Jersey (Cape May), and many more. It felt like one big family reunion of brewers, coming together to do what they love: deliver good beer to good people.
As far as the event space, it doesn’t get better than the exposed brick interior, and ample rooftop green space that the Mavris Center offers. It was an atmosphere that lended itself well to sampling sour ales all afternoon – warm and cozy, yet open. The beautiful weather that day made it so the outdoor space could be utilized, which was an added bonus to the already beautiful event.
There were so many unique, flavorful brews that we tried that day, but here are some of my personal highlights, from Indiana to beyond:
Patio Smasher, Sun King Brewery (IN): If you haven’t been to Sun King’s distillery in Carmel, add it to your list of spring/summer activities. This fruity beer would be the perfect one to sip on their rooftop space while enjoying a pretzel with beer cheese from Oca.
Pale Splitter, Triton Brewing (IN): This is one of our favorite taprooms in central Indiana, specifically because a cold beer tastes so damn good here after hiking at Fort Ben close by. The Pale Splitter APA is obviously not a sour beer, but it was a good palate cleanser in the middle of the tasting day, and I must say I wanted more after trying it. APA’s are hoppier, sure, but this one was drinkable and smooth. Definitely will be having a pint of this sometime soon.
Champagne Velvet, Upland Brewing Co (IN): Of all the sour beers they offered that day (and there were some super unique and delicious ones on tap), I have to give a nod to their palate-cleanser station, which offered pours of champagne velvet, because of its cool historical background and the refreshingly sweet flavor. For a light beer, it’s chock full of flavor while still being smooth. An added bonus is the artwork on the can, which is a beautifully simple nod to its history.
Oarsman, Bell’s Brewery (MI): this was my favorite of the day. It’s described as a “tart wheat ale”, and I think that’s a perfect description. The sourness is almost an aftertaste, making the wheat notes stand out, but also creating a super drinkable sour ale. This is one I’d recommend for anyone dipping their toes into the world of sours: it’s a good introduction, and one you would reach for again and again on a summer day.
Beneath Cascading Tides, Burial Beer Co (NC): I’ve been lucky enough to visit this brewery in Asheville (which is a must if you’re ever down that way), and this beer reminded me of why I like them so much. It’s a golden sour, with noyaux, which is the kernel of stone fruit and lends an almond flavor to the beer. And that almond flavor really comes through! This one, much like Oarsman, has the tartness of sour ales almost as an aftertaste, which makes this another brew that you could happily drink a few rounds of.
Perpetual Passion, Rhinegeist (OH): This is another brewery that I’ve visited on my treks through Ohio, and it’s one that’s constantly talked about in our household because it’s just that good. The sour beer we sampled had an extremely fresh taste, reminding me so much of summer days by the pool, with fruity notes and just a hint of vanilla. It was more tart than some of the others I tried that day, but still pretty darn drinkable.
Cheers to Upland, to sour beer, and to the start of patio drinking season!