As this is an international festival where I met fantastic people from all over the continent, I decided to write this review in English, which means this is the first article on this blog that’s not in German. Please excuse all errors and strange forms of German-English.
The Arrogant Sour Festival is a phenomenon. Based on a strong community of beer and especially sour beer lovers, a fantastic festival has been established in the small town of Reggio Emilia, far beyond the big tourist streams but close enough to a lot of airports that are easy to reach from abroad. So I met people from England, Switzerland, France and Germany, and I’m sure there were a lot of beer lovers coming from many other countries.
The festival is located in a historical building in the middle of the beautiful medieval city of Reggio Emilia. The Chiostro della Ghiara is an old monastery founded in the early 18th century, that is now used as a youth hostel and restaurant. Even in the hot midday hours you can sit in the shadow of the porticoes. Non pale visitors will find a place in the courtyard under old trees, that is also the perfect place for the evening hours to drink, eat, talk and listen to the music. It’s by far the most beautiful venue I have ever seen for a beer festival, the peaceful atmosphere of the building provided a relaxed atmosphere and it was a holiday at its best, normal life got completely excluded.
Under the Italian sun the whole event ran smoothly and relaxed, without security or annoying, unnecessary rules. For the entrance fee of 7 € each visitor received a festival glass and was allowed to join the whole three day festival. That’s a bargain! Of cause each beer has to be paid individually, tokens for this could be bought for one Euro each, with 2–5 coins per beer (150 ml pours). But it was possible to have smaller pours for one or two tokens.
Beside the draft beer area there was also an area called Lambic Corner where you could get several fine examples of the basic beers behind all those sour delights.
A very important part of the festival is the open-air-bar with bottled treasures and small, very special wooden barrels. Amazing stuff could be found there. One remarkable thing was to see the Brewers in a very relaxed and happy state of mind. Even for them it looked more like a vacation than work. Networking made very easy.
But the festival is not only about beer. You can also find a fine selection of food from local producers, e.g., perfectly baked pizza or lovely bread filled with big slices of prosciutto or mortadella. Just delicious and a perfect companion for all the beers.
In the late evening hours the music starts to play and the selection of bands was wonderful. During the day I really felt at home with punk rock and rock classics coming out of the speakers, but when the bands started to play the beer festival changed into a music festival with beer. It started quite tame on Friday with Taxi Road playing Rock ’n’ roll standards. I loved the Saturday when The Maffick heated up the audience with powerful punk rock, and it was the first time in my life that I saw a happy dog jumping around in the middle of a moshpit. Incredible. On Sunday Hakuna Matata – Guethy & Co made a strong impression with African sounds and a very good singer. It was big fun! One dream would be to see Bull Brigade from Torino on this stage, my favorite punk band from Italy!
I heard a lot about the „Arrogant Family“ in advance, but I haven’t expected what happened during those days. To be correct, for me the whole thing started some days before, when I visited Lambiczoon in Milan and Il Punto in Bologna, two bars with a fantastic beer selection. The staff quite soon realised that I’m not a normal tourist stumbling into their pub to drink a Birra Moretti. It was great to see people so well informed and enthusiastic about the beers I love and I was even more happy when they told me that we will meet again at the festival, as they are part of the lovely community that runs the festival.
Alessandro, the main organiser of the Arrogant Sour Festival, was one of the most passionate people I have ever seen in the beer world. I guess he slept only a few hours during the weekend, lost a tooth and was always moving, speaking to each and everybody just to be sure that all people around are feeling good. What a guy. I spent my time with two fabulous people from England, and all of us were close to tears when Alessandro offered us a present, that we never expected. And it tasted wonderful.
But it’s not all about drinking fun, it’s also about education. The festival offers several forums, where the brewers and experts discuss about beers and beer related topics, which gives you deep insights into the complex production of sour and wild beers as well as the chance to meet famous brewers and their very special beers. In Il tempo e le ossidazioni I got the opportunity to hear the legendary Baladin brewer Teo Musso talking about oxidisation and the marriage of wine and beer. Even most of the talks were in Italian, host Andrea Camaschella did his best to translate the most important parts for two non-Italian guests. Legendary beers like the Baladin Xyauyu barrel 2013 or the Cantillon La vie est Belge have been compared to a Marsala and a Vernaccia di Oristano wine, with an Balsamico tasting at the end.
Easier to follow was the In fruit we sour forum, which was held mainly in English. The brewers of Lost Abbey, Kernel, Tilquin, White Hag, Mont Saleve and Haandbryggeriet provided insights in their work and presented one special beer. Definitely an event for fanboys!
Unfortunately, I missed the Spontanee in trasferta forum on Sunday, an open bottle of Lost Abbey Violet made it impossible to leave my place…
The line-up of breweries and beers is just amazing. Classic Belgian producers like Cantillon, Timmermans, Tilquin, Boon or De Ranke can be compared with the big players from the USA like Jester King, De Garde or Lost Abbey. Also the Italian brewers made a powerful statement, how big creative brewing is in Italy and how passionate their brewers are. Even two German brewers came to Reggio Emilia. The Döllnitzer Ritterguts Brewery presented their traditional Gose as well as their fantastic Gose Bock called Bärentöter. Freigeist showed creative versions like a sour porter and a sour IPA as well as a cherry beer made with bread.
It’s hard to decide, but here are the five best beers I tried during the Arrogant Sour Festival 2017, dominated by the US brewers:
Cascade – Noyaux
A typical Cascade beer. Really sour and tart, with full fruitiness of raspberries and apricots.
Birra Baladin – Xyauyù Barrel Réserve Téo Musso (2008)
Something very special. A tiny barrel full of the essence of the Xyauyù. I also tried the 2013 version, but this one is much more smooth, intense and reduced. Amazing.
de Garde Brewing – Bière Violet
The beer I bought to bring home. Full fruit in the nose, in the mouth the sourness explodes. Boysenberry comes with full power. Refreshing and you just want to get more of it.
The Lost Abbey – Framboise de Amorosa
Interesting to see the different approaches of the US brewers. Where Cascade is about sourness and fruit, The Lost Abbey brings the barrel to the front. A complex beer that needs time for exploration, but very well balanced.
Jester King Brewery – SPON – Raspberry & Cherry (2016) & SPON – Peach & Apricot (2016)
Ok, it’s two beers. But two very impressive ones. Thanks to Paul, founder of the UK Craft Beer Forum, I was invited to share this two amazing, bottled beers. Both full of intense fruits, complex and rich.
The Arrogant Sour Festival is already fixed in my schedule for next year. I had a fantastic time not only in Reggio Emilia, but also on my whole trip to Bergamo, Milan, Bologna and Pisa. Let’s see, if I can convince more people within my communities to join me next year! Cheers!