With so many sour beer styles out in the wild today, which one do you choose? We have all heard about the different bacteria introduced by brewers to sour their beers but with such a broad catch-all term like sour, how do we know which one will best suit our palettes. I wont write out a detailed description of what sour beer is or how its made because its been done before (a quick search shows a detailed breakdown of the bacteria commonly found in sour beers around the world by Adam Watson). I will however try to sift through the differing styles of sour beers that I particularly enjoy and add some clarity (or confusion) to this craze that has swept up the craft beer industry over the past few years.
- Lambics – The dry and cider like sour taste from these beers make them incredibly pleasant to drink year round. (Notable favorites: Anything from the Cantillon Brewery, Upland Lambics)
- Gose – A salty, yet clean finishing light sour that commonly has light fruity notes that round out this surprisingly refreshing beer. This German style sour has bright earthy tones that meld quite well with differing levels of saltiness that vary by brewery. (Notable favorites: Anderson Valley Gose, Evil Twin Mission Gose)
- Flemish – A more robust finish that has many wine-like characteristics that show up from the long aging processes. Deep red fruit flavors also show thru nicely in this velvety smooth sour style. (Notable favorites: Rodenbach Grand Cru, Duchesse de Bourgogne)
Kettle sours have been a hot topic as of late and still deserve quite a great deal of credit for reinventing what we know as modern day souring technique. The Anderson Valley Gose that I mentioned earlier is a beautiful kettle sour that I have consumed copious amounts of (unabashedly). I enjoy the creations that many breweries can come up with and produce in such a short period of time through this method, while having much more control over infection over aging in wood or in the open air. It doesn’t always yield the best results but there are some great kettle sours out there to choose from.
The styles listed above are just some personal favorites and there are so many more that can be explored within this genre, be adventurous and don’t shy away when you see the word sour, lambic or flanders red up on the board of your local taproom.
Until next time…