Since the rise of craft beer back in the 1980s and 90s, we’ve seen trend after trend come and go. And as more and more breweries opened and beers were introduced to the masses, brewers needed to find ways to set themselves apart from the glut. So, they tinkered.
With beer, you have some leeway to throw ingredients at the proverbial wall to see if they stick. Some do, and some don’t.
In the case of this trending style, the smoothie sour, it all started with the original, fruited sour and its similar brethren, such as the Gose. When those trends caught on and permeated all aspects of the craft beer stratosphere, breweries started to play with the flavors to set themselves apart from the pack.
That’s when the fun adjuncts made their way in.
Imprint Beer Company | Hatfield, Pa.
In the case of one of the pioneers of the style, Imprint Beer Company of Hatfield, Pa., it all started at an event that co-founder and brewer Ryan Diehl deemed their “coming out party.”
“We’d started to build a name for ourselves with lots of different styles,” Diehl explained. “We decided to brew our first smoothie sour, called Puffsicle, with raspberry, blueberry, pineapple, and marshmallow for this event.”
People couldn’t get enough of it. Diehl knew he had a winner on his hands and started brewing what would become some of his brewery’s most popular beers: their renowned Schmoojee line.
They churn out some of the most flavorful and popular smoothie sours in the business. Beer lovers near and far come to try the different flavors of Schmoojees that feature adjuncts such as cheesecake, bananas, white chocolate, marshmallows, fudge, and so much more.
They even have a 12 Days of Schmoojee holiday variety pack boasting flavors like Blueberry Vanilla Waffles.
The smoothie sours have their own set of processes separate from the rest of the beer that Imprint brews. Diehl says after the beer base is brewed, it’s then fermented over the course of eight to 11 days, and then the base sour is added, followed by the extra ingredients.
Imprint, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2023, isn’t the only brewery that has carved a niche into the smoothie sour genre.
903 Brewers | Dallas, Texas
In the case of 903 Brewers in Dallas, Texas, they had already been in business for six years before trying their hand at their first smoothie sour.
903 owner and founder Jeremy Roberts said that, at the time, there was a need to reinvent themselves, observing that ready-to-go cocktails were on the rise.
“We saw that there were some people that were getting away from beer, or didn’t like beer at all,” Roberts said. “We wanted to make something fun and exciting, so we put together a cherry limeade sour that tasted similar to the popular Sonic Drive-in drink.”
Roberts says people “lost their mind.” It sold out quickly, then another smoothie sour brewed with pineapple and vanilla ice cream followed suit, and the rest is history.
903’s Slushy line of beers was born. And Roberts seemingly succeeded with his goal of fun beer.
Blueberry Donut Slushy. Ice Cream Truck Slushy. Cotton Candy Slushy. Dad’s Day Out Slushy, complete with edible glitter. These are just a few examples of what they’ve done with this style.
Oozlefinch Beers & Blending | Fort Monroe, Va.
Oozlefinch Beers & Blending in Fort Monroe, Va., also set out to do something forward thinking.
Oozlefinch founder and CEO Russ Tinsley said they had delved into the fruited sour realm for a while but found that the beers weren’t retaining their sweetness.
They introduced A Very Thirsty Caterpillar, their inaugural smoothie sour, complete with several fruits and a healthy dose of vanilla and lactose.
It was a resounding success. They began to brew more smoothie sours, giving birth to their Party Dinosaur and Das Yummy line of sours or, as Oozlefinch’s head brewer Logan Morris calls them, Kool-Aid for adults.
Morris says that they look at their beers as more than just “sweet bombs” and are very intentional with the flavors they choose and how they brew them. He says they use a specific strain of yeast that produces lactic acid and add charcoal to the blend as a thickening agent.
Oozlefinch’s brewing methods include a process called back sweetening, which involves adding flavors after fermentation, using a pasteurizer for maximum safety and effectiveness.
Corporate Ladder Brewing | Palmetto, Fla.
For Corporate Ladder Brewing in Palmetto, Fla., co-owners Blake Kleppe and James Herrholz say it’s all about the sensory experience that drinking a beer such as this provides.
Kleppe founded Corporate Ladder in 2018, with Herrholz joining in 2019 and bringing culinary-inspired beer with him.
Their Dessert Station line of smoothie sours puts together concoctions such as Laffy Taffy with banana, white chocolate, and caramel, or Pumpkin Pie A La Mode brewed with pumpkin, vanilla ice cream, and pumpkin pie spices, or Intangible, their creamsicle-inspired beer conditioned on tangerine and vanilla beans. The list goes on and on.
“Our process includes a lot of ingredient sourcing, to make sure flavors go together,” says Herrholz. “The goal is to have these beers taste just like what they say they are, or what they’re inspired by.”
New Flavors, New Audience
All of these breweries share the same sentiment when it comes to the attraction of smoothie sours. They’re seeing a whole new audience of beer drinkers that otherwise would not make their way into a brewery.
Not only that, but the releases of these smoothie sours tend to be events, with devotees paying close attention to what flavors these breweries are going to try next.
“Our goal is to make liquid for everyone, whether that’s one of our unique sours, or a lager or an IPA,” says Corporate Ladder’s Kleppe. “So, if people think that the smoothie sours shouldn’t be considered beer, we don’t really care, as long as they enjoyed it.”
Oozlefinch’s Tinsley had a similar response, saying they view this style of beer as sweet liquid for adults (and showing synergy with his brewer Logan, who had the Kool-aid comparison earlier). Ditto for 903’s Roberts.
“It sounds so simple, but people will drink one and say ‘wow, it really tastes like X,’ whatever that particular ingredient is, and the fact that they enjoyed it is what we strive for,” Roberts says.
The breweries featured here just scratch the surface of who’s making smoothie sour waves across the beer ocean.
Drekker Brewing Company in Fargo, N.D.; Mortalis Brewing Company in Avon, N.Y.; Burley Oak Brewery in Berlin, Md.; 450 North Brewing Company in Columbus, Ind.; and The Answer Brewpub in Richmond, Va., are just a few more notable ones.
And because these breweries are likeminded in what they’re blending, they naturally tend to flock to each other. In fact, each brewery interviewed for this article said it’s a brother/sisterhood, and many of them have collaborated on smoothie sours.
At this point, smoothie sours are no longer a new fad. But the style lends itself to trying new ingredients and creating new concoctions, so it should always feel new.
And that’s a good thing for craft beer fans and dabblers alike. Corporate Ladder’s Kleppe sums it up.
“The smoothie sours give all of us the opportunity to turn someone on to a wide variety of flavors they’ve never experienced before,” he said.
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