Craft Beer 101: Old World Sours

Sours are a beer that blew up a few years ago and the popularity hasn't waned the way many thought it would. The thing is, sours have been around as long as beer has because sour beer is essentially beer gone bad... in a good way. Sour beer is beer that has been inoculated with bacteria that changes the flavor either subtly or dramatically. Most people either love them or hate them, but the truth is, that there are so many different styles happening right now that there is almost certainly a sour for everyone out there. There are, very broadly speaking, two ways to make a sour, wild fermentation and single culture. We're only going to be discussing styles here but if you want to learn more about the 3 types of souring bugs that are used and how they affect the beer, check out this article from Draft Magazine. 

Berliner Weisse

The Berliner is a lightly tart, ultra refreshing sour that, in Germany at least, you'll often see with Raspberry Syrup, which we highly recommend. In the US breweries skip the syrup step and throw fruit right the brew. With their low alcohol and high carbonation, there are few things better on a hot day.

  • Malt: What malt? Its there, you just won't really taste it. 
  • Hops: Very little hop bitterness or aroma
  • Sour: Traditionally brewed with Brett but you don't get as much of it as you do lactic sour which makes it fairly tart, but not aggressively so. Fruit notes are common, even without actual fruit
  • ABV: 2.8-4%
  • Pair With: Ham Sandwich on Pretzel Roll, Havarti, Raspberry Cheesecake
Berliner All.jpg

Gose

This style came back out of nowhere a few year ago and it is my absolute favorite beer for hot weather. Gose's are a slightly soured wheat, like the Berliner. The main breakaway from the Berliner however is the use of salt and coriander in the beer. The coriander is light and the salt should be noticeable but not overwhelming. Gose, like Berliner Weisse, see a lot of fruit included in the beer as well which is usually a welcome addition when it's done well. This is the Gatorade of the beer world. 

  • Malt: Wheat, Light Pilsner Malt
  • Hops: Absent
  • Sour: Low to Medium Sourness with sometimes a funky horse blanket or earthy flavors from the Brett Yeast
  • ABV: 4.4-5.5%
  • Pair With: Watermelon Salad, Queso Fresco, Lemon Bars

 

Flanders Red Ale

A sour, fruity, red wine like ale from Belgium with balanced malt flavor and fruity complexity. It has a dry finish and tannins can be present, lending more to the red wine comparison. The red wine theme continues with flavors of cherry, plum, chocolate, and sometimes oak, even if it isn't aged in oak. Acetic sourness can be medium-low to high, with the malt character dissipating the more sour the beer. Be sure to tell wine loyalists that it's sour though because the acetic acid that makes it sour is the same acid that gets created in old wine. 

  • Malt: Balanced malt sweetness with notes of cocoa
  • Hops: No aroma, little bitterness
  • Sour: The Lactobaillus creates a acetic sourness that's medium to high
  • ABV: 4.8-6.6%
  • Pair With: Beef Burgundy
Flanders All.jpg

 

Fruit Lambic

Often known as cassis, framboise, kriek, or peche, a fruit lambic takes on the color and flavor of the fruit it is brewed with. It can be dry or sweet, clear or cloudy, depending on the ingredients. Notes of Brettanomyces yeast (funkiness) are often presents. Sourness is an important part of the flavor profile, though sweetness may mute it.

  • Malt: Sweet malt character gets drowned out by stronger flavors
  • Hops: low if at all
  • Sour: A dry sourness that is complimented by the high level of fruit in the beer. 
  • 5-9%
  • Pair With: Fruit, Chevre, Creme de Caramel