The word “sour” comes with some serious baggage. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the stomach-curdling notion of sour milk. Or how about “sour grapes,” a reference to a poor loser? A grouchy, sullen old man might be called a “sourpuss.” Given this background and context, it’s no wonder some might associate the style of “sour beer” with these overwhelmingly negative connotations.
For some beer drinkers, that assumption would be correct. The divisive tart and acidic fruit flavors found in styles like Flanders red ales and Lambics are definitely not for everyone. But for beer novices who assume all brews taste like the flavorless malt water of mainstream lagers, the explosive sour beer style can be an unexpected and welcome introduction to the larger world of craft beer.
5 Sour Beers to Try Right Now
- Oude Tart by The Bruery
- La Folie Sour Brown Ale by New Belgium Brewing
- Gose by Westbrook Brewing
- Raspberry Tart by New Glarus Brewing
- Apricot Sour by Avery Brewing
Sour Beer Explained
It’s important to note that the “sour” demarcation in the beer style guide does not mean the beer has gone bad or “turned” in an upsetting way. These are beers with added yeast or bacteria that purposefully change the flavors to present a range of sharp, astringent tastes. Some beers incorporate lactobacillus for an extra tang or pediococcus for a more funky kick. The Brettanomyces yeast strain provides an alternative of flavors described as barnyard or earthy. Whether these microbes are consciously introduced in a clinical setting or if the liquid is allowed to ferment in an open environment to collect wild yeast, the experience is worlds apart from the average pale ale.
One obvious group of drinkers who may be drawn to sour beers are people who like the bold, cutting flavors in sour candies. If your taste buds are perked by the Sour Patch Kids and Brite Crawlers of the world, drinking a Lindemans Framboise would be a walk in the park. The raspberry sweetness melds with a quenching tartness for a distinctly candy-like experience.
Wine drinkers are also primed to enjoy the bolder fruit-forward tastes in sour beers. Green apple and lemon cut through the bite of Victory Brewing Company’s Sour Monkey, making it a perfect beer option for lovers of white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.
An Oud Bruin style ale, like the one brewed by Funkwerks, would be appealing to those who crave a darker natural fruit sour flavor like that of black cherries. Vinegar and sweetness intertwine in this style, which frequently sees beers blended together or aged to create more complex notes.
As demand for niche beers has increased, more sour beers are showing up on store shelves. But one sour sub-group, in particular, has seen explosive growth in recent years: the Gose. These beers are low in alcohol, refreshing, and only a little tart which make for a great warm weather treat. Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale goes further to blend the traditional Ggose saltiness with a Berliner Weiss’ crisp fruit twist.
For many beer enthusiasts, acquiring a love of sour beer was seen as the ultimate expression of growth in their beer-drinking palate. The typical path moved up a ladder of complexity, beginning with corporate lagers and moving to pale ales, and then IPAs to stouts and barleywines, and ending with the menagerie of sours. But now that the full range of beer styles is becoming more accessible, that former pyramid no longer applies. Sour beers can just as easily be your first craft beer or your one thousandth.
Want some more options for sour beers now that you’ve tried the ones we mentioned above? Check out five more sour beers to try right now below.