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Are you a craft beer lover who likes to experiment with different styles of beer, but have yet to try a sour beer? I you haven’t, don’t knock it til you try it.
Not all sour beers are not created equal. Some are more funky and tart than others, and some just pleasantly tart with more of a sweet fruity undertone.
Now we aren’t saying that all sour beers will agree with your palate, but we came up with a list of the best sour beers that you should try, the next time you make a beer run to the liquor store.
What Exactly Is A Sour Beer?
Sour beer is a unique style of beer that has a distinct acidic or sour taste.
All beer brewing, whether it’s made in a commercial brewery or brewed in someones kitchen, sanitation is the most important thing, and the main ingredient for a good beer.
But unlike most styles of beer where you want to keep all micro-organisms out, a sour beer is purposely made with bacteria and wild yeast. These strains of bacteria and wild yeast are used to intentionally make the beer sour, but they also can get the sour and tart flavor by adding different fruits like raspberries or cherries.
Bacteria Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are the two most common microbes that are used in the brewing process. Lactobacillus is the bacteria that converts sugars to lactic acid. Pediococcus, along with other lactic acid bacteria is used during fermentation and usually considered undesirable in beer and wine, but it is often used in a Berliner Wiesse or Lambic
Many of these sour beers will ferment for months and then age in oak barrels for years before they are fully mature and ready to drink.
Where Did Sour Beer Originate?
The origin of these tart and funky beers dates back to 1836 in Roeselare, Belgium. Rodenbach Brewery is still in operation today and still brewing sour beer.
Although this type of “craft beer” was first brewed in Belgium, many types of sour beer are now being produced in the United States, Canada, and other countries throughout Europe, and many are available at most liquor stores.
The 6 Popular Sour Beer Styles
Under the category of sour beers, there are six different styles and each one has it’s own characteristics.
- American Wild Ale
- Berliner Wiesse
- Flanders Red Ale
- Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin
American Wild Ale
As the name indicates, this type of beer is brewed in the United States and uses bacteria and yeast that is grown in the wild in the fermentation process, rather than a traditional brewing yeast.
American Wild Ales can be aged in wood barrels and have many different characteristics, ranging from a dark to light color, be easy drinking or strong, hoppy, or very malty.
Berliner Wiesse is a German-style sour wheat beer that has a much lower alcohol content and higher carbonation than other sours. In the late 19th century, Berliner Wiesse was the the most popular style of beer in Berlin.
A traditional Berliner Wiesse is know to be served in a bowl-shaped glass along with a flavored syrup like raspberry, to balance the sourness with the tart fruit.
Flanders Red Ale
This red ale is a type of sour ale that is usually aged in wooden barrels for periods up to a year or more, and often compared to wine. Brewers often use red malt to give this beer it’s distinct red or brown color.
While these beers are not bitter from hops, the sourness can be vary from mild to strong, and often times the taste is similar to the aroma, but usually much stronger.
Gose is a type of sour wheat beer that originated in Germany way back in the 13th century, and do not usually have a strong aroma, taste, or bitterness.
These beers most often have a low to moderate alcohol content and get their sour flavor from lemons, coriander and the saltiness comes from salt water or added salt.
Lambics are are sour beers that is brewed in the country of Belgium. What makes this beer different from others is that is it uses a strain of yeast that provides spontaneous fermentation.
The wort is cooled down in “coolships” overnight, where it is open to air in the winter and spring, then placed in oak kasks where they are conditioned and aged for a period of one to three years.
Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin
Flanders Brown is another sour ale that originated in Belgium and is also aged for up to a year or more. After primary fermentation, it goes through a secondary fermentation for a few more weeks to a month.
A Flanders Brown is darker in color, aged in only stainless-steel vessels instead. Some commercial brewers may use a combination of younger beer along with the aged beer to offset the sourness of the beer.
14 Sour Beer Brands That You Should Try
Although there are many good sour beers being brewed all over the world, far more than we can test ourselves, we have made a list of 14 popular sour beers that we recommend you try.
New Belgium La Folie
USA – Flanders – 7% ABV
Many beer drinkers who love sour beers claim that this one is their all time favorite. Like most commercial beer, this one is fermented in a stainless-steel fermenter, and then aged in oak barrels for up to four years.
It pours a reddish-brown color with a thick-white, long-lasting foamy head. The aroma is a fruity smell that is both funky and sour at the same time.
There is a slight pucker, but the taste of plums, cherry, and green apple balance out the taste.
Odell Sippin' Pretty Sour Beer
USA – American Wild Ale – 4.5% ABV
This ruby-red fruit sour is the creation of Odell Brewing Company in Colorado. Considered a “sipping” beer rather than a “drinking” beer.
It pours a light hazy, grapefruit color with a thin white foamy head. Appealing to the nose is the the smell of strawberries and fresh fruit.
Infused with a combination of acai berry, guava, and elderberry, and pink Himalayan sea salt, is what gives it its tart flavor on the back of your tongue.
Central State Garden Gose
USA – Gose -3.6% ABV
Another easy-drinking German-styled Gose that is brewed in the United States, and the low ABV is perfect for a hot summer day.
It has a pale hazy yellow color and when poured, it has a small white head with a bit of lacing on the glass. With a citrus lemonade and salty aroma, it resembles a Margarita.
Boulevard Tequila Barrel Lime Gose
USA – Gose – 4.2% ABV
If you like lime, this Gose is for you. This is a German-style sour resembles a Margareta and is brewed in the United States. It has a light golden color, and pours a nice two-finger foam head. There is a prominent aroma of lime, with a touch of banana and dried coconut.
As far as the taste goes, the tartness and sourness of the lime is the dominant feature, with a hint of Tequila with a slightly salty finish.
Funkwerks Raspberry Provincial Ale
USA – Berliner Weisse – 4.2% ABV
This beer was almost created by accident. When a test batch didn’t hit the gravity mark the brewer was looking for, they decided to add raspberries just for fun. That is how this beer from Funkwerks Brewery in Colorado was born.
It has a light pink color that almost looks like wine, but has a thin pinkish foam head. The aroma definitely has the characteristics of raspberries, along with the taste of raspberry that is not too tart or sour.
There is no mistaking that this is a raspberry sour beer, and makes for a great drinking beer on a hot summer day.
Victory Sour Monkey
USA – American Wild Ale – 9.5% ABV
Brewed in Pennsylvania, many beer lovers claim they never enjoyed a sour beer until they tried this one. Coming in at 9.5% ABV, this beer can pack a punch if you aren’t careful.
It pours a golden straw color with a slight haziness, and retains it’s thick white foamy head. The tastes consists of sweet fruit with a bit of tartness that is not too overpowering, but you will for sure know you are drinking a sour beer.
Duchesse de bourgogne
Belgium – Flanders Red – 6% ABV
After primary and secondary fermentation, this beer is aged for 18 months in oak barrels. The beer is a combination between the young 8-month old beer, and the beer that has been maturing for a year and a half.
It pours a dark cherry color with a long lasting light brown foam head. The taste is a sweet and tart combination of cherry, oak, with an underlying vinegar tone. Has some similarities to champagne, wine coolers, or apple cider.
New Glarus Raspberry Tart
USA – Fruit Lambic- 4% ABV
This low alcohol fruit beer is brewed in Wisconsin, and often on the list for one of the best sour beers.
It is a plum-like deep purple/ruby red color that pours a tan 1″ foam head that doesn’t stick around very long.
It has a pronounced aroma of raspberries as soon as the bottle is opened. The taste is sweet, but also sour like tart raspberries, but not as acidic like other sour beer.
Germany – Gose – 4.7% ABV
Ritterguts Gose is the oldest and most authentic Gose still being brewed in the world. This particular beer is brewed with coriander and salt and has won many beer awards.
When poured, it has a light golden amber color with a decent amount of a white foam head. The aroma is a pleasant citrus fruit with hints of salt and spices. The taste is not too strong, but has a sweet and sour combination that is a good summer drinking beer.
Lindemans Framboise Lambic Ale
Belgium – Fruit Lambic – 2.5% ABV
When it comes to the best sour beers, it’s hard to keep this one off the list.
From the second you take a sip of this low-alcohol beer, you will immediately taste the sweet and tart flavors of raspberry. It is fermented with local wild yeast and infused with pure raspberry juice that gives it’s aroma, distinct dark pink color, and pink foam head.
Most often, this Lambic is served as a aperitif to whet the appetite before a meal, or it also can be used in cooking/
Dogfish Head Seaquench Ale
USA -Gose – 4.9% ABV
This sour beer is brewed by Dogfish Head in Delaware and makes some of the best sour beers in the country. It is brewed with lime juice, black lime, and sea salt to give this beer its signature taste.
It is essentially a German hybrid, consisting of a Berliner Wiess, Kolsch, and a Gose, which is all fermented together as a trio. The pour is a yellow color as has a thin white head with low retention.
This beer is so good, that in 2017, “Mens Health” magazine had this beer as their top-low calorie beer.
USA – Gose – 4% ABV
This sour beer is Westbrook Brewing’s take on a traditional unfiltered wheat beer that is brewed with coriander and salt.
The pour is a hazy golden yellow color with a 1″ white foam head that quickly fades away, leaving a thin ring, with very little lacing left behind. The upfront aroma is a salty and sour, that is not too overpowering. It has a tart citrus taste that the salt balances out perfectly.
This beer is neither too heavy or too light making it a nice refreshing sour beer.
Rodenbach Fruitage Ale
USA – Flanders Red Ale- 4.2% ABV
Infused with cherry and elderberries, this easy-drinking Flanders Red is another Belgium style sour, but brewed in Nevada. Like other Flanders, it is a combination of 75% young beer, and 25% mature beer that is aged in large wooden vats for two years.
It has a hazy reddish amber color with an off-white head that disappears rather quickly, leaving some thin lacing behind. The aroma is a strong fruity/berry characteristic and a not so tart taste of cherries.
Many people who don’t care for Flander Ales, often make an exception for this one.
10 Barrel Brewing Company Cucumber Sour Crush
USA – Berliner Weisse- 5% ABV
This Berliner Weisse is brewed in Oregon, and is the only beer on our list that the main star is a vegetable instead of a fruit.
It pours a light clear straw color and has a decent off-white foam head with minimal lacing, with the subtle aroma of cucumber. As the name says, it has the taste of cucumbers with a little lemon mixed in.
If you like cucumber, you might want to give this one a try. It is an easy drinking beer that is not too sour and probably best enjoyed on a summer day.
Where You Can Find These Sour Beers
Are you interested in trying some of these unique beers but can’t find them at your favorite pub or local liquor store? If not, many of these sour beers and more are available online at Drizly.com.
You can browse their website and find a wide selection of of beer, wine, and spirits, and have them delivered to you from a local liquor store, or have them shipped to you if they are not available where you live.
Our Final Say On Sour Beer
Coming up with the best sour beer is purely subjective to each individuals tastes, and sour beer is not for everyone. Like many styles of beer, some people love it, and some people hate it, but you will never know unless you try one or two.
If you are someone who is a hard-core beer lover, or likes to drink wine, or just likes to dabble in different craft beer selections once in a while, go ahead and give a few of these best sour beers a try.
You are almost sure to find one that you like, and you might actually surprise yourself.