March 21, 2021

Smoothie Sours

Smoothie Sours

A couple fairly recent beer trends have recently converged to give us smoothie sours. For a while now we've seen milkshake IPAs. These are IPAs that use lactose aka milk sugar to add mild sweetness to beers. This paired with fruit flavors gives things like strawberry milk shake IPAs, like this this one at Prairie in 2018:

Now Now @ Prairie's Taproom in OKC

The second trend is fruited sours. Like milkshake IPAs these have been kicking around for a few years. Slam as many pounds of raspberries or blueberries into your beer as possible creating a sweet, tart, clean drinking kettle sour or wild ale.

Cowabunga from the Brewing Project, a nice fruited sour

In retrospect it seems inevitable that these two would meet somewhere, and meet they did at Smoothie Sours. Since fruited sours aren't purely sweet, reusing the milkshake name didn't make a ton of sense, but smoothie seemed like a natural fit. Tart from real fruit and sour base, creamy and sweet from the lactose. That tang plus mild milk sweet is very much like the yogurt base of a fruit smoothie. On paper this sounds like it should 100% be up my alley. Unfortunately there is one more feature of smoothie sours that I absolutely can't get down with: pulp.

In order to differentiate smoothie sours from other fruited sours, brewers have done more than just add lactose. They have decided to fully mimic the smoothie drinking experience and left the fruit pulp in the can. Fruit purees are added after brewing and solids are not filtered out before canning.

Smoofee a true pulp filled monstrosity

At this point I would like to admit that I hate pulp. I hate citrus juice with pulp. I hate drinking real life smoothies. I hate the pulp in a smoothie sour. Sometimes my husband will let me taste one of his cocktails using fresh squeezed juice that hasn't been filtered and it is immediately repulsive.

like sipping jamba juice but in the worst way for me

I have had probably over a dozen smoothie sours that I've ordered from Tavour. I tried to like them, I really did. I did however get tired of dumping a half a beer down the drain because I didn't want to continue drinking pulp after the 6th beer or so.  All smoothie sours will instruct you to gently roll the can to redistribute the solids through the beer. Here's what I've decided after months though. If you, like me, don't like pulp, DO NOT ROLL THAT CAN.

Example instructions to roll your can before opening

Here's the easiest pulp free smoothie sour experience: get out a pint glass, and jostle, shake or roll the cold can as little as possible. We want to pour the delicious clear fruited sour off the top, leaving as much pulp in the bottom of the can as possible. You should be able to easily see when the beer goes from clear to cloudy as you pour off the top. This will probably be 12-14oz of your 16oz tall boy can. You may feel like you're wasting beer, and I am very sympathetic. If you, like me, have failed to finish a smoothie sour in the past, I urge you to taste what is remaining in the can and honestly ask yourself if you want to drink not only the remaining ~2 -4oz of beer, but you want to drink a full 16oz of that. If your answer, like mine, is honestly no, you don't want to drink that, dump the last 2-4oz. If you put it in your glass, the whole beer will get warm in your hand as you dread every sip. I promise you 12oz of beer you like drinking is better than 8oz of beer you choked down because you didn't want to waste 4oz, and you end up dumping the other half of your beer down the drain.

A 903 slushy sour separated apart as described above, the beer on the right is smooth, light and delicious

I have tried previously to use a fine mesh strainer or a spoon to skim off the pulp and it worked to varying levels of success. I encourage you to experiment with pulp removal techniques if you find your tolerance for pulp is higher or lower than mine

The same cara cara 903 sour after being poured through a fine mesh strainer. smooth, creamy, fruity & delicious. Mesh strainer: highly effective for this beer

I hope this gives you permission to enjoy smoothie sours however you like best. I think it can be easy to fall into a trap of optimal efficiency at the expense of personal enjoyment and we should fight that! Especially in things that are supposed to be pleasurable like drinking a delicious craft beer!

Are you also a strictly no pulp person or are you a pulp freak? Do you like smoothie sours? Have you found a way you like to drink them? Let me know! I'm @jennegatron on twitter & on untappd