Tapping a wooden keg

Suds Across the Pond

Barbarian Brewing co-owners travel to England to brew sour beer

Lex Nelson

Trends, like 15th-century explorers, often hop the Atlantic from Europe to America—but sometimes the channel flows the other way. Garden City-based brewing company Barbarian Brewing proved that point in late September, when co-owners Bre Hovley and James Long traveled to London to teach the staff at Hop Stuff Brewery about what’s already a booming trend in American suds: sour beer.

“It was actually pretty crazy, because we brew on a five-barrel system over here, and they’d just upgraded from a 10-barrel system up to a 60-barrel production facility. And so they were just getting used to their system, and had never made a sour before,” Hovley said.

While sour beers are available in London (mostly Belgian sours and light, subtle German brews), Hovley said they aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as in the U.S., where festivals celebrating sour beer have popped up nationwide in the last decade. During their 10-day stay, Long spent two 12-hour days working with the brewers at Hop Stuff to make a kettle sour IPA—what Hovley called a “quick turnaround sour,” which goes from raw ingredients to the glass in just over two weeks. That’s a much shorter timeframe than the better-known barrel-aged sour, which can take up to a year to develop. The brewers dubbed the final product Jolly Cooperation Sour IPA, and for a truly Idaho touch, the recipe starred El Dorado and Idaho 7 hops flown in from the Gem State.

Though the brew wasn’t quite ready to drink by the time Hovley and Long left London for a beer tour through Amsterdam and Prague, Hovley said she expects an easy-drinking IPA, with citrus notes, a sour kick and no bitterness. That flavor profile is why Hop Stuff called on the experts. Brewed incorrectly, sour beers can turn nasty, offering what Hovley called “unsavory” flavors like baby puke and garbage.

Barbarian and Hop Stuff connected two years ago, when the London-based brewery’s owner was in Idaho on a northwest brewery tour and stopped by Barbarian’s facility.

“As he left he was like, ‘If you ever want to come to London and make a beer, let us know.’ And so this year, James was like, ‘Let’s go to London!’” Hovley said with a laugh.

Image collage: man at keg, beer logo, owners tasting beer

After a tour through Europe tasting rare “bucket list” brews, including 2018 Zwanze, a Belgium beer released simultaneously at specific locations worldwide for the annual Zwanze Day celebration, Hovley and Long are already planning a return trip to partner with a different brewery in 2019. Meanwhile though, Long will whip up another batch of Jolly Collaboration IPA on American soil.

“It will be out in London in about two weeks, and then James is going to make the same beer over here next month, and we’ll have it on draft [at Barbarian] in, hopefully, November,” Hovley said.

Barrel-filling photos credit: Danny Rosas. JOLLY CO-OPERATION logo and bottom right photo credit: Bre Hovley.