Erica Pyles says it was love at first taste. Four years ago, Pyles, the general manager of Bridger’s Bottle Shop, took her first sip of a sour beer — New Belgium’s La Folie — and was hooked.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is it — this is what I’m supposed to do,’” says Pyles, a certified cicerone. “I’m supposed to be in this industry. And this is that epiphany that you have, and it all makes sense, and it’s true. That’s what started it all.
“It’s where my heart is,” she adds. “My heart is with the sour, funky beers.”
Now Pyles wants to open her heart, so Bridger’s (510 Westport Road) is laying out an array of those sour, funky beers Saturday with an event named “Day of Sours.” The VIP flights have already sold out, but from noon to 4 p.m., Bridger’s taps La Folie, Mikkeller SpontanPeach, Boulevard Saison-Brett, and Prairie Funky Gold Mosaic. New Belgium is also sending bottles of its dry-hopped sour ale, Le Terroir (due to hit Kansas City stores soon).
Around 1 p.m., Michael Crane of Crane Brewing Co. starts pouring samples of his sours, likely his gueuze (“Hands down, one of the best that I’ve had in my life,” Pyles says), saison and Berliner Weisse refermented with beets. Bridger’s also plans to smoke a pig and offer a special menu. And though the tappings end at 4, the celebration goes on until everything sells out.
When Pyles first took the job at Bridger’s, her goal, she says, was to “have an awesome, awesome sour-beer selection — the biggest selection in the city.” She continues, “It was the one thing that I wanted to do. I always say sour beer is my jam. It’s my thing. It’s me. It’s my favorite part about a beer.”
As Bridger’s expanded its lineup of sours, Pyles socked away bottles with a special event in mind. A successful sour-beer dinner in June reaffirmed her belief that a Day of Sours was in order.
“I was very happy with it,” Pyles says, “and we got such good feedback on it. People who didn’t really drink sour beer, they’re like, ‘Hey, I really liked that.’”
Bridger’s isn’t alone in souring September. Bier Station is putting on this year’s Cantillon Zwanze Day, centering on the release of Cuvée de Florian (a hoppy lambic) Saturday, September 20. Flying Saucer follows with a sour-beer week (September 22-27), culminating with KC Beer Fest Saturday, September 27.
“The sour-beer trend is huge,” Pyles says. “It’s booming. And basically, we’re kind of where IPAs were eight or 10 years ago. We’re in this huge demand for it, and people are slowly becoming more curious, too.”
Pyles hopes to lure sour first-timers from the Westport Art Fair, going on at the same time.
“That’s the best person who can walk in this door — someone who doesn’t know,” she says. “That’s your chance. That’s your opportunity to change their view on it. It’s your opportunity to educate them and show them what it is.”