Sour beer is a unique and complex niche in the craft beer world. It combines wild yeasts and bacteria to produce sour flavors that can range from light to puckering.
Traditional sour styles like Belgian lambics, Flanders red ales and German gose and Berliner Weisse all utilize wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria to produce tart flavor. Fruits and spices can also be used to add additional flavor compounds.
What Makes Sour Beers So Special?
Sour beer is a unique style that’s becoming increasingly popular. Breweries across the country are making these tart, tangy brews that appeal to a wide range of taste buds. From beer geeks to those who’ve never touched a glass of beer, everyone enjoys a good sour.
Sour beers are made with a combination of wild yeast and bacteria that produce tartness, acidity and funkiness. Some sour beers use just one type of yeast, while others combine different kinds to create a more complex flavor profile.
The most common types of sour beers are brewed with a combination of lactobacillus, pediococcus, and brettanomyces (or “brett”). These bacteria produce lactic acid, which gives a bright lemony-tart pucker to the beer. They also produce acetic acid, which is the acid that gives sour vinegar flavor.
Many sour beers are aged in oak barrels, which allows the microorganisms to thrive. This gives the beer a sour, earthy quality that’s difficult to replicate in sterile brewing environments.
Lambic, Flanders, American Wild Ale, Gose and Berliner Weisse are some of the most common sour styles. Depending on the brewery, these beers can finish between 3%-5% alcohol by volume (ABV).
While these beers are often associated with Belgium, they can be found around the world and in many different styles. For example, brewer Caleb Staton at Upland Brewing Company in Indiana brews fruited sour beers that rely on traditional Belgian lambic practices, but with an American twist.
These beers are typically a bit lower in alcohol than many other beers on tap, so they’re great for a light, refreshing drink. In fact, many sour beers are perfect for session drinking.
The sour beers that you find in your local craft breweries are all made with a combination of bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms. They come from various regions of the world, but all sour beers share the same basic fermentation process.
The bacteria responsible for the sourness in sour beers are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, which are introduced to the wort during the brewing process and consume the sugars present in the brew. The resulting acidity is a mix of lactic and acetic acids. This acidity can also be produced by the bacterium acetobacter, which converts oxidized alcohol to wine-like vinegar.
Sour Beer Styles
Sour beer is one of the most unique types of beers you can get your hands on, and there are so many different ways to brew these ales. They can be made from malted barley, hops, fruit, or even barrels.
Sours are brewed with yeast and bacteria that naturally create acid, which gives them their distinctive sour flavor. These microflora, including lactobacillus, pediococcus, and acetobacter, produce the lactic acid and acetic acid (vinegar) that make your mouth pucker as you sip.
Typically, the sour process takes place during secondary fermentation in a secondary vessel called a carboy. The wort, which is the unfermented mixture of sugar and water that’s created during the mash process, is transferred to this container.
While many brewers still rely on wood fermentation barrels, more and more sour beers are being made in stainless steel tanks or kettles. This has made it easier for brewers to control the bacteria and yeast that are used in the brewing process.
This method allows brewers to quickly create sours for their customers, especially during the sour-beer renaissance that has been taking place in the US. It also allows them to brew more complex sour beers without having to spend months fermenting and ageing the sour beer in wooden barrels.
As a result, sour beers are becoming more and more popular among craft breweries and craft beer drinkers alike. While they may seem confusing at first, understanding the complexities of sour beer can be rewarding for anyone interested in exploring this unique style.
The most common sour beer styles include lambic, flanders red, gueuze, and American wild ale. These sour beers all contain yeast and bacteria that produce lactic acid, but the results vary significantly.
Sours can range in color from golden to dark copper and may have anywhere from mildly to strongly tart flavor. The sourness varies based on how long the sour beer is aged and how much wild yeast and bacteria is added to the beer.
In addition to traditional sour beer styles, there are newer sour beers being crafted, like sour IPA and sour lager. The popularity of sour beers has allowed breweries to experiment with different flavors and techniques, such as adding fruit and spices.
Sour Beer Ingredients
Sour beers are a type of beer with an intentionally acidic or tart flavor. They are made by combining different types of wild yeast and bacteria with the brewer’s yeast that makes lagers and ales. The sour taste is typically a result of the bacteria’s production of lactic and acetic acids during the fermentation process.
The sour taste can also be achieved by adding fruit to the wort during the brewing process, or during barrel aging of the finished beer. These fruits contain natural lactic and acetic acids, as well as other microbes that can contribute to the flavor of sour beers.
Bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are common ingredients in sour beers, as are the fungus Brettanomyces. These organisms eat sugar just like traditional brewer’s yeast, but their ability to produce lactic and acetic acids is much lower than that of brewer’s yeast.
Many brewers add these bacteria at different points during the brewing process to achieve different levels of effect. For example, the bacteria can be introduced at the start of wort production for a lighter variety of sour beer that is more perceptible through aroma than taste. The bacteria can also be introduced at the end of the brewing process for an additional layer of complexity to the beer.
Using a mixture of these microorganisms is a technique known as “mixed fermentation.” This method allows brewers to introduce a range of microbes that can each contribute a unique sour flavor to a beer. For example, the sour yeast known as brettanomyces can add complex, earthy flavors that can’t be produced by the pure culture of brewer’s yeast.
Another microorganism is called lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which are added to the wort during fermentation. These bacteria can also be used to impart a citrusy flavor during secondary fermentation.
These bacteria are most commonly found in sour beers, as they can produce the lactic acid that produces sour flavors. LAB isn’t as popular in the brewing world as other microbes like Brettanomyces, but it is one of the most important microorganisms for sour beers to use.
Sour Beer Pairings
Sour beer is an increasingly popular craft beverage that has many aficionados swooning over the unique flavors and complex brewing processes of these brews. Unlike traditional alcoholic beverages, sour beers are made by allowing them to ferment with special acidifying bacteria such as Brettanomyces and Pediococcus.
These bacterial cultures produce lactic acid, which gives sour beers their distinct sour, tart and slightly acidic flavors. Some sour beers are also fermented in wine barrels, making them even more distinctive.
In the United States, sour beer is usually made by specialty breweries that focus on this style of beer. The brewers may use a variety of different methods to make their sour beers, including adding hops during fermentation.
The best way to pair sour beer is by considering the balance of flavors in the food. Then, you can find beers that complement the flavor of a specific dish.
For instance, a dish of sour shrimp is a great match for a sour wheat ale, and sour beer can also enhance the sweetness of sweeter fish like scallop or sea urchin (uni). Another great pairing would be a dark stout with a grilled pork chop.
It’s also important to remember that sour beers are naturally acidic, so they can cut through richness and fats in some dishes. This can help to create a fresher experience for the palate and reduce any coating or cloying that can happen with certain foods, like fatty prime steaks, duck and tonkotsu ramen.
Another style of sour beer is called a lambic, which is made with fruit added at various points during the brewing process. Brewers often add raspberry or cherry during or after fermentation, which produces a very fruity taste.
This beer is very easy to drink and a great choice for those who are new to sour beers. It’s a light beer that isn’t as bitter as an India Pale Ale, but it has a lot of complexity.
Sour beers can also be mixed with a wide variety of other beverages, as long as the two aren’t too far apart in terms of color and sourness. They’re also ideal to pair with sour sodas, iced coffee and gin and tonics, as well as ciders.