"This reminds me of a speakeasy," she said.
"That's because it was, back during prohibition," was my answer.
"Really? Cool! We studied these in school."
My daughters had never been to Waller Street Brewing. For myself, it had been more than a year since I had been here, myself. The dust-encrusted mini-growlers that I was returning were a testament to how long I had held onto them. Each of my daughters carried one empty: I held the other two.
The dimly lit bar area was busy, for a Saturday afternoon. People of all walks of life seemed to fill the seats and line the small bar. My daughters made for the youngest of the visitors: I was, by far, the oldest.
I had come for two specific ales, but I also had a taste of two cask-conditioned ales. The brett was the most memorable, with the notes of lychee and pineapple on the nose. But it was the Tiger Milk—a white stout—and the sour saison that I walked out with.
The owner and brewer, Marc-André Chainey, wasn't in, though I had run into him only a couple of weeks earlier, at a craft-beer event, when he first introduced me to the sour saison and had told me he was working on the white stout. This prompted my long-overdue return.
I'm not a fan of sour ales. I don't like how they make me suck in my cheeks, how they make me stick out my tongue. Last fall, I tried a pumpkin sour ale, which I liked, but it was more pumpkin ale than sour.
Marc-André's sour is a farm ale with more emphasis on sour, but it doesn't centre itself on a pucker-face sourness. Let's look at it more closely.
Juice Joint Sour Dry-Hopped Sour Saison (5.4% ABV)Appearance: an unfiltered, dark apricot with a foamy, off-white head that settles to a solid cap. While you sip and the level of ale in you glass goes down, you may notice that as the head disappears, little clumps of foam thicken like curdled milk. These clumps don't affect the flavour, but when I asked, our brewer offered a possibility for these formations.
Waller St. Brewing
Perhaps they are the result of residual "souring lacto" that is churning the beer, making condensed foam. It could also be the effect of polyphenols from the hops, making more foam.
As I said, it didn't affect the flavour.
Nose: slightly candied, puréed pears.
Palate: the sourness is introduced right away but it's not lip-puckeringly strong. The fruit comes close on its heels and mixes with the sourness and comes out as tangerines and limes. The finish is sharp, clean, and refreshing.
Overall impression: this sour saison makes me do something that no other sour has ever done—make me want to drink more. It also makes me rethink my distaste for sour ales. With its beautiful balance of acidic sourness and ripe fruit, I'm hoping to find a patio on which I could enjoy this ale on a sunny afternoon.
I haven't enjoyed such an inspiring ale in a while that I'm also going to do something I haven't done in a while...
Beer O'Clock rating: 5
Yup, I would seek out and enjoy this dry-hopped sour saison any time I'm able. Which means that you should get out and try some, too.
Marc-André's sister, Marie-Eve, told me that a new batch should be available at the brewery on Friday (May 12). Currently, Pure Kitchen has it on tap and more Ottawa pubs should pick it up soon.