What Sour Beer Is: Taste, 3 Popular Brands + 3 Best Beers
Sour beers are a hit among beer fans because of their acidity, tartness, and overall unique profile. If you’re the type who enjoys beers that are different from the standard ones, you’ll love to know more about sour beers. Here you’ll learn all about the best sour beers you should try.
Sour beer is popular among beginners as well as seasoned drinkers. These beers are challenging to create, requiring complex fermentation and extended aging processes.
For this reason, not all breweries offer sour beers, but now brewers realize that the result is very rewarding. Several breweries create these daring and refreshing sour beers; we’ll learn more about them here.
But before you sip a sour, it is better to know more about it. In this post, we’ll talk about the origin and history, ingredients, taste, and alcohol level of sour beers. Furthermore, we’ll discuss the best sour beer breweries and the top beers in this category. Let’s dive right in!
What Sour Beer Is
Brewing wild bacteria and yeast results in sour beer with a distinct sour taste. The beer is intentionally made acidic or tart-like by using acid-producing bacteria. Two main bacteria are used for brewing sour beers:
- Lactobacillus bacteria
- Pediococcus bacteria
Lactobacillus is the same bacteria that makes yogurt sour as it converts sugar into lactic acid. Pediococcus increases the beer’s acidity and produces a compound that gives the beer a buttery taste.
Origin, History, and Founders of Sour Beers
The origins of sour beers date back to 4000 B.C. when all beers were sour. At that time, beers contained living organisms that remained there for years and carried out fermentation.
This process produced a funky and sour flavor in the beer, which was well liked by drinkers. So, the founders of sour beer are not individuals but a natural fermentation process.
The first sour beer was introduced in Belgium during the eighteenth century. During the mid-19th century, these drinks lost their popularity as ales and lagers became more popular.
German and Belgian immigrants brought sour beer to the U.S., but these beers weren’t readily available before the 1970s. However, since the 1970s, sour beers have become popular again.
What Types of Beer Sours There Are
Sour beers are available in different varieties, originating in Germany and Belgium. Today, we have a wide variety, including American-made sour beers. The following are some of the most popular sour beers.
Berliner Weisse is a German wheat beer with high carbonation but a low alcohol content. It contains 5% percent ABV and is a cloudy, sour beer containing a mix of wheat and barley malt.
These beers also contain fruit syrups to reduce tartness and acidity. The tartness of this beer comes from lactobacillus and is more subtle than other American and Belgian sour beers.
American Wild Ales
American Wild Ales represent all the sour beers that originated in America. These beers are usually made with a combination of Ale and Brettanomyces yeast.
American Wild Ales use wild yeast with a sour flavor like other beers. Besides these, no distinct characteristics or rules set them apart from other sour beers.
Lambic is a Belgian wheat beer that is fermented in the open air. The wild microbes present in the air enter the beer and carry out fermentation.
These beers are aged for a year and are brewed chiefly in the winter. Lambics are blended with younger and older batches and mixed with raspberry, cherry, and other fruits. A mixture of old and young batches is called 'gueuze.'
Gose is a German sour beer made with sea salt and coriander during brewing. This beer is available in different flavors, but the main flavor profile includes salty, sour, and herbaceous.
Before primary fermentation, gose is mixed with lactic acid to produce tartness. These beers are made in Germany as well as in America.
Acetic acid and lactic sourness have an impact on the flavor of Flanders. This beer originated in Belgium but is now standard across the globe.
It mixes sweet and sour flavors influenced by sweet fruit, vanilla, and lactic acid. Flanders are available in different varieties, including red and brown ones. Red Flanders have a more fruity flavor, while brown Flanders have earthy, plum, and raisin notes.
Ingredients of Sour Beer
Sour beers differ from other beers because they don’t contain the standard yeasts like Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The main difference between a sour beer and a regular beer is that the former contains different ingredients for the fermentation process.
The main ingredients in sour beer are:
- Malted barley (grain)
- Yeast (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, or Brettanomyces)
- Additional microorganisms
- Fruit and flavors (optional)
The brewing process determines the type of beer. The grain is mashed with water and malt to prepare the beer, then allowed to rest. Then, aged hops are added in small amounts.
Finally, fermentation starts when bacteria and yeast are added to the mixture. This beer can age in a wooden cask for a few months or until the desired acidity is achieved.
Taste of Sour Beer
Sour beer tastes sour! It is characterized by its acidic nature and tartness. However, the level of acidity may differ according to the brands because of the techniques used for brewing.
Though other beers can be sour, any beer would be sweeter than sour beer. The flavor profile of sour beer includes the following characteristics:
- Fruity undertones
- Hop bitterness
- Malt presence
If you want to know what makes a sour beer different from other beers, know that it has a lip-puckering and tongue-tickling effect. These beers are known for their high acidity, resulting from the fermentation of sugars by bacteria and yeast.
Alcohol in Sour Beer
Most sour beers have an ABV (Alcohol by Volume) between 3 and 5 percent, but in some beers, the alcohol content can be as high as 8 percent to 9 percent.
In most cases, sour beers are low in ABV and can be called session beers.
If you’re concerned about the alcohol level in your sour beer, read the label or consult the brewery.
Glasses for Sour Beers
Glass choice is critical for any beer. For sour beers, tulip glasses are used. These glasses have flared lips and a stout body, perfect for holding the aromas of sour beer.
Tulips have short stems that easily fit between your fingers while sipping the sour beer.
Some people also use a snifter for sour beer, a smaller glass than the Tulip.
Benefits of Sour Beers
Since sour beer contains many probiotics and antibiotics, it offers various health benefits.
Plus, these beers have a lower alcohol content, which is another big reason to enjoy sipping them. Here are a few advantages that sour beers offer.
Lower Sugar Content
Beers that are low in carbs and sugars are the healthiest. The good news is that the microbes in the sour beer can metabolize the sugar in it during fermentation.
Some sour beers contain live yeast, which continues to ferment their carbs. In short, sour beer is not a sweet drink, but the amount of sugar in it also depends on the brewing method and the recipe.
Probiotics and Antioxidants
Sour beers contain high levels of probiotics and antibiotics, and because of this, they have many health benefits. Probiotics are good bacteria that improve gut health by supporting the digestive system.
These beers contain live probiotics, which are more effective than foods that contain inactive probiotics. Antioxidants boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Reduced Alcohol Content
Sour beers are of many types; most contain alcohol by volume (ABV) of 3 to 5 percent. Some sour beers might have alcohol as low as 2 percent, while others can have a higher alcohol content of up to 9 percent.
It is essential to check the label of a beer if you’re concerned about the alcohol content. Since most sour beers have a low alcohol content, they are refreshing and easy to consume.
Delicious and Unique
Sour beer offers a unique taste for those who want something different from traditional beers. These beers are available in a range of flavors and have a variety of aromas.
They are also less carbonated than traditional beers, which makes them easier to drink. They are refreshing and delicious because of their tartness and acidic taste.
Best Sour Beers
Sour beers are available in a wide variety of categories. Gueuzes, Flanders, and many more beers fall into this category.
With sour beers, the brewers have a lot of freedom in brewing and carrying out fermentation. Whether you’re looking for a tart punch or a refreshing drink for summer, you will be satisfied with these beers. Here are the top picks for the best sour beers:
Gueuze Lou Pepe by Brasserie Cantillon
This is a Belgian Gueuze that is made by mixing two lambics. It contains youthful flavors and an aged touch, making it more unique.
The beer has a slight citrus tartness and a little bitterness that balances well with its sweet liquor. The beer has an ABV of 5.5 percent and is limited to three bottles per person.
Two Roads Persian Lime Gose
Two Roads Persian Lime Gose is from Connecticut and features lime, coriander, and salt notes. It has an ABV of 4.5 percent and is a light and refreshing beer.
The beer is dry and light-bodied and offers a mix of sour and salt with each sip. Fresh lime is the dominant flavor in this beer, with a slight touch of light sweetness and sourness.
Tiarna by Allagash
Tiarna by Allagash is aged in oak barrels. Allagash is one of the oldest Belgian-inspired breweries, and it creates one of the most unique sour beers. Tiarna is a blend of two Belgian yeast strains that taste sour. The beer has a sweet and sour taste and a fresh green color.
Best Classic Sour Beers
Classic sour beers include Flanders Red, Berliner Weisse, Lambics, and Belgian Oud Bruin.
All of the classic sour beers feature lactic acidity, but the Belgian styles have more touches of acetic acid.
The following are some of the best classic sour beers – for example the marlene and the duchess de bourgogne.
Marlene, Schneeeule Brauerei
The Marlene beer is a mixture of pilsner malt and wheat that is then fermented with a blend of lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Saccharomyces.
The beer contains 3 percent ABV, so it’s a light-session beer perfect for anyone who wants a refreshing experience. It has a glowing pale color, a subdued funkiness, and a slightly acidic taste.
Duchesse de Bourgogne
Duchesse de Bourgogne is a refreshing Flemish red ale. The beer features a dry and long acidic finish. It is matured for 18 months in oak barrels after undergoing primary and secondary fermentation. The Duchesse sour beer’s final product is a blend of young and old beers with an ABV of 6 percent.
Cantillon La Vie est Belge
Cantillon La Vie est Belge is a hazy golden lambic and tart with mild dried fruits, grapefruits, and some funk. The beer is from Belgium and features a delicious flavor and lively carbonation. It has an ABV of 6 percent and can be considered a session beer.
Most Popular Sour Beer Brands and Breweries
Several breweries create amazing sour beers. The following are our top picks for the most popular sour beer brands and breweries.
For example you will learn more about the urssian river brewery company as well as the dogfish head craft company and the cantillon brewery.
Russian River Brewing Company
Russian River Brewing Company is an award-winning company based in West Sonoma County. The company is well known for creating high-quality and delicious beers.
It also got the 'Brewers Association Recognition Award' for its unique beers. Beer enthusiasts worldwide visit this brewery to enjoy their favorite beers and learn more about their brewing techniques. The company produces sour barrel-aged beers and clean beers.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is based in Delaware, USA, and is known for producing one of the most interesting craft beers in the country.
Their beers are popular as they use non-standard ingredients such as green raisins, which add a unique flavor to the beer. The company offers various beers and special beer tests so people can find their taste preferences before buying.
Cantillon Brewery is a family-owned beer brand based in Brussels. The company creates a wide variety of lambics. They also allow people to visit their brewery and learn more about its history, beers, and production methods.
It is a great place if you are looking to learn more about sour beers and their production techniques.
Perfect Food Pairing with Sour Beers
Sour beers are versatile, and their flavor profile allows you to explore many exciting food pairings. These beers mainly pair well with fatty foods, as their acidity makes them taste better. The acidity of the sour beers counters the sweetness of desserts and enhances the flavors of fatty and meaty foods.
They are refreshing and produce a thirst-quenching feeling when paired with heavy and creamy foods. The following foods pair well with sour beers-
Fatty Beef Cuts
The funky flavors of a sour beer complement the richness of salty meats, such as fatty beef cuts and cured pork. The acidity of sour beers not only improves the flavor of the meat but also cuts through the fat and gives it a light and refreshing feeling.
The fat-cutting and acid-like characteristics of sour beers make them ideal for pairing with many fatty foods. You can have them with prime steaks, beef cuts, and other greasy meats.
Sour cuts are sour, so sour beer is an excellent pairing for strong cheeses. When pairing assertive cheeses like goat or sharp cheddar, remember to use slightly fruity sour beers, as they will elevate the taste of the cheeses. A cheese plate and a glass of sour beer are a perfect contrast.
Seafoods such as mussels, crab, and tuna are perfect to be paired with sour beer. Squeeze a lemon or top the seafood with heavy whipping cream and see the magic.
Like we said earlier, sour beers cut through fat and grease, which is why they are perfect for pairing with fatty foods and deep-fried items. You can have any deep-fried appetizer, such as french fries, cheese balls, crispy fried chicken, and a light session of sour beer.
Sour beer gives us many reasons to try it; its sour, funky, and tart flavors are irresistible and pair well with many foods. These beers are some of the most unique and delicious beers available.
Probiotics and a low alcohol content make these beers even more desirable. If you’re looking for an easy-to-drink beer, the sour beer will have you coming back for seconds (and even thirds)!