Going into Autumn here in Australia, it’s sad that we’re coming out of sour beer weather. But at least it means we’re going into brown ale, porter, and stout weather! We had a fairly delayed start of Autumn, so we were able to enjoy lovely sour beers a little longer than usual. This was more than welcome.
Sour beers really have been becoming more popular lately, and the summer 2015/2016 really was the summer of sour beer. A lot of this was because the Beer Muse found a few (extra) great ones and wouldn’t stop drinking them. There was a bit of an incident with the Panhead Customer Ales Fruit Loop that saw a broken bottle and glass due to excessive celebration at how awesome the beer was.
Needless to say, there’s no shortage of many different kinds of sours at the moment. And this is a good thing.
Sour Beer – A Quick Summary
Sour beer is a pretty broad category. It ranges from the lambic, to the Berliner Weisse, the Gose, the American Wild Ale, and many more, with variations upon variation in between. In a way, simply calling a beer a “sour” is just as description as calling one an “ale.” It’s a broad term that encapsulates a lot of different styles that aren’t terribly related. In fact, the sour style in all these varieties of sour beer is difference, the body is different, the whole beer is different.
So why just one post on sour beers in general? Well, while most of these styles are very (very) old, we’re lucky to be seeing a resurgence of sour beer in the last couple of years, and a lot of people aren’t really into them yet. So let’s get the basics.
While these days, yeast strains have been refined and isolated to eliminate any sour or “off” flavours, sour beers started off using wild and unrefined yeasts. Back in those days, it was also difficult to bacteria from infecting beers, and these added further interesting flavours to beers. These days, many brewers will still use a wild yeasts or, at the very least, pure strains designed to make the right kind of sour. While more traditional brewing yeasts are used in the brewing of sour beers, other strains such as Brett will also be introduced to make things more interesting. Adding to this, bacteria that produce lactic acid are also added to the fermenting wort to produce other sour flavours.
Different styles of sours have different brewing methods and different additions. And because of this, they’re all pretty different!
How to Get Into Sour Beers
Some sours are more challenging than others. At first, the taste can be a bit off putting. After all, sours are intentionally infected with yeast strains bacteria that brewers often try to avoid.
If you’re trying to get into sour beer, the best place to start is a Berliner Weisse. The Berliner Weisse has both barley and wheat malts in it, is fairly light in body and alcohol, and is only slightly sour compared to the other sour beers out there. It’s a refreshing brew that goes down easily and isn’t overly challenging.
Lambics and fruit beers come next in the order of things. The sourness in the beer that can come from fruits such as raspberries will be more familiar to many palates. Once again, these beers are very refreshing and a lot of fun due their diversity.
With a bit of experience, move on up to the mighty Gose or American wild ale. The Gose has is brewed with unusual ingredients such as salt and other spices, which can be confronting to some people. While American Wild Ale is a much newer style and can be a little intense for those not used to a sour beer.
Get into it!
And More on Why We Love Sour Beers
As mentioned, a sour beer is nice and refreshing on a summer day or any time the weather is nice a dry. A good lager can be refreshing as well, and of course there are summer ales out there, but nothing cuts through it all like a sour beer.
Over the last few years, it seems that more and more breweries are coming out with more and more sour beers and they’re experimenting more and more as they become more confident with the various styles. Lagers still continue to get a bit of a bad reputation in the craft beer scene, so proper beer drinkers need something light and refreshing to fall back on that’s not a lager. Adding to this, while we have nothing against lagers, even a great lager can be a little bit boring sometimes.
Because of this, it’s the sour beer that we fall back on for pure refreshment and taste combined. Let’s keep the trend going!
If there are any sour beers that are your favourite, feel free to mention them in the comments.