Sour Beer

Introducing Stingo: a SMOD sour series

We’re very excited to introduce our new series of 100% oak-fermented, sour STINGO beers. Its our first foray into sour beers (as SMOD) and we have great plans for many differing types of STINGO for you in the coming months, starting with our new raspberry “FRUIT STINGO“.

“Stingo” is an old word very much associated with brewing tradition here in the North of England, all but abandoned save the lovely Sam Smith’s “Yorkshire Stingo” from nearby Tadcaster. The best information we’ve found on the subject of Stingo was written by Bob Tomlinson in Huddersfield CAMRA’s magazine “Ale Talk” from the Winter, 2014 issue. What he describes is simply a strong ale left to go stale, or as we see it – Yorkshire’s traditional sour beer style. Knowing that 19th century porter likely had a sour element to it (see historian Ron Pattinson’s collaboration with Goose Island), and that the grand old “Flander’s Red” of Rodenbach in north-west Belgium was directly inspired/taken from a northern English brewery by Eugene Rodenbach in the late 19th century, it doesn’t seem crazy that one of the words most associated with traditional Yorkshire beer could be referring to a sour beer.

“It doesn’t seem crazy that one of the words most associated with traditional Yorkshire beer could be referring to a sour beer.”

For their Stingo, Sam Smith’s age their beer in the brewery’s famous 36 gallon oak trade casks, not only soaking their historic cooperage into the beer – but also the “flora” of the characterful Sam Smith’s pub estate. That perfectly resembles Bob Tomlinson’s descriptions of Stingo from “Ale Talk”. When they first premiered their Stingo it was definitely sour or at least tart. I understand that presently it’s more of a barleywine aged in trade barrels.

Over the years the term “Stingo” kind of lost its original meaning, usually appearing on the labels of barleywines like Sam Smith’s before basically disappearing.

So it’s an old neglected Yorkshire brewing tradition. This is perfect because “neglected brewing tradition” is our middle name. Nine years ago we collaborated with Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City to make a Stingo, as we saw it at the time.

To make a SMOD version of Stingo we got crafty and devised our own way to make a 100% foeder-fermented “quick sour” base beer. Why you ask? Well we didn’t want to do either kettle-sours or sour mashes, and unlike Samuel Smith’s we don’t have the space in our tiny brewery for loads of cooperage. But also we really wanted to reinterpret and do something novel and challenging.

The new process is a bit odd and we’ve been referring to it as an “inverted fermentation” (which makes Martha’s eyes nearly roll down the street). Ironically it’s inspired by an old Bavarian technique used by breweries to make acid (that we already use in our lagers), but tricked-out a bit for making our Stingo. Basically we brew as normal, boil, partially cool the wort and transfer to our foeder, pitch a ‘mixto’ strain (lacto., brett., sacch.), then convince the lactobacillus to ferment alone first, giving way to saccharamyces and brettanomyces when we decide it’s sour enough. There’s a bit more to it than that but that’s basically what we do. The whole fermentation is quick and clean with the resulting base beer portraying a gentle, clean, sour-fruit-candy character.

For the Stingo we also ferment in two 225 litre wooden barrels, lactobacillus-free with various forms of fruit (in this instance), get it completely fermented-out and blend it in with approximately 1000 litres of the foeder base beer. This blend is then re-fermented and packaged.

This is just the first of MANY diverse types of Stingo to come (we have a second in the foeder as I write). We hope you enjoy our new STINGOS!