Craft beers come in many combinations of flavors, colors, and aromas and craft beer brewers continue to push the boundaries of what constitutes beer. However, an increasingly popular beer style within the beer community is pushing the boundaries on what many have traditionally regarded as beer.
Sour beers have begun to enter beer lineups for numerous breweries around the country and locally. The taste of these beers can be off putting to those unaccustomed to the style, but once you get a taste for them it is hard to turn back.
The beer itself has a history that dates back to Belgium with many breweries still creating some classic version of the beers. In fact, the sour beer category actually encompasses several different styles and is not as specific as saying a beer is a stout or an IPA. Instead, there are American Wild Ales, Flanders Red Ales, Lambics, and Gueuzes, which all tend to be under the category of sour beers.
The beer becomes sour due to the addition of wild yeast and/or bacteria. Traditionally, Belgian brewers allowed wild yeast to enter the beer naturally through the barrels or through using coolships, which are open fermentation vessels.
There are two main types of bacteria added to the beers to bring about the souring, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. Another addition used in the beer is also Brettanomyces, commonly referred to as Brett, which comes from the genus of yeast that also aids in the sour taste of the beers and can substitute for yeast.
Because of the uncertainty involved in using wild yeast and bacteria, the sour beer brewing process is extremely unpredictable. The beer takes months to ferment and can take years to fully mature.
The taste, which is characterized as acidic, tart, and sour, is what makes sour beers stand out. The beers can age for a long time as well, some up to 40 to 50 years, and as the beer ages flavor profiles change and new flavors can appear, one such flavor is vinegar.
The vinegar flavor in the beer can be present early in the life of the beer but sometimes can become more pronounced as the beer ages. This vinegar flavor is what can turn some off to this style of beer, however not all sour beers possess this character.
Two very popular versions of the Lambic style are also sour beers as well, Kriek, which is Flemish for cherry, and Framboise, which is Flemish for raspberry, are beloved by many beer drinkers. These beers are popular throughout the world with the Belgian brewery Lindeman’s offering these styles far and wide to the public.
The difficulty many breweries face with brewing sour beers is that with the introduction of bacteria and Brett into the brew house it can become very difficult to clean them out of the equipment, thus making all beers, even those not desired to be, sour. Many breweries use different equipment or even separate brew houses for sour beers to prevent this from happening. These steps have allowed more breweries to brew sour beers and thus make them more widely available to the public.
If you have not tried sour beers yet but have heard a lot about them, there is no better time than now. Here is a list of sour beers to try that are perfect for newbies and novices alike.
•Rodenbach- Rodenbach Original
•Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales- La Roja
•Allagash Brewing Company- Coolship Red
•Breaker Brewing Company- Sour Tomato
•Goose Island- Juliet
•New Belgium Brewing- Lips of Faith- Le Terroir
•Brewery Ommegang- Wild at Heart
•Russian River- Supplication
Get some for yourself, drink it down, and pucker up!