When it comes to beer, the flavor profiles can be as diverse as the people who enjoy them. One style that has been making waves in the craft beer community is sour beer. With their tart and tangy flavours, sour beers are pushing the boundaries of what beer can be. But what exactly is sour beer, and what makes it so unique? In this ultimate guide, we’ll explore the history, flavours, and brewing techniques that define the sour beer style.
The Origins and Rise of Sour Beer
Sour beer has been around for centuries, with roots in European brewing traditions. The recent resurgence of sour beer can be attributed to craft brewers who have embraced these historic methods and added their own innovative twists. Today, sour beer is a diverse and rapidly growing category, offering a wide range of flavours and styles to explore.
The Science Behind the Sour
The distinctive tangy taste of sour beer comes from the presence of lactic acid, produced by bacteria during fermentation. Brewers use wild yeast and bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus, to achieve the desired level of sourness. This controlled process results in a harmonious balance of tart, fruity, and funky flavours that make sour beer so intriguing.
Popular Sour Beer Styles You Need to Try
Now that we’ve covered the basics of sour beer, let’s explore some of the most popular styles you’ll encounter:
Lambic: The Belgian Original
Lambic is a traditional Belgian sour beer, characterised by its complex, fruity, and funky flavors. Brewed using spontaneous fermentation, lambic is aged in oak barrels and often blended to create a unique flavour profile. Fruit lambics, such as kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry), add a delightful fruitiness to this already captivating brew.
Flanders Red Ale: The “Burgundy of Belgium”
Originating from the Flanders region of Belgium, this ale is known for its distinctive sour and fruity profile. The beer’s unique taste comes from the use of Lactobacillus bacteria and wild yeast strains during fermentation, which produce lactic and acetic acids that contribute to its tartness.
Flanders Red Ales are often aged in oak barrels, which imparts additional complexity and depth to their flavors. They are characterised by their reddish-brown colour, notes of dark fruit (like cherries and plums), and a balanced acidity. The style is sometimes referred to as the “Burgundy of Belgium” due to its wine-like characteristics and rich flavor profile.
Gose: A Salty and Tart German Classic
Gose (pronounced “go-zuh”) is a sour, salty, and refreshing German wheat beer that originated in the town of Goslar. This beer style is brewed with coriander and salt, giving it a zesty and slightly saline character. The sourness in a gose comes from lactic acid bacteria, which imparts a gentle tanginess that complements its other flavours. The tangy, slightly saline character of a gose makes it a perfect pairing for a variety of dishes, from seafood to spicy fare.
Berliner Weisse: A Crisp, Tart Refresher
Another German sour, Berliner Weisse is a light and effervescent wheat beer that boasts a clean, lemony tartness. Traditionally served with flavoured syrups such as raspberry or woodruff, this beer is a perfect thirst quencher on a hot summer day. Berliner Weisse typically has a lower alcohol content, making it an ideal session beer.
How to Enjoy Sour Beer
When it comes to enjoying sour beer, it’s all about embracing the adventure. Here are some tips to help you savor and appreciate sour beers to the fullest:
Start with an open mind
Sour beers can be quite different from what you may be used to in traditional beer styles. Embrace the adventure and keep an open mind as you sample new and intriguing varieties.
Proper glassware and serving temperature
Using the right glassware and serving temperature can enhance the flavors and aromas of sour beers. Tulip-shaped glasses or snifters are ideal for concentrating the aroma and maintaining the perfect temperature. Typically, sour beers should be served slightly cooler than room temperature, between 7 and 13°C.
Pairing with food
The complex flavors of sour beers make them excellent companions for a variety of dishes. For instance, the tartness of sour beers can cut through the richness of fatty or creamy dishes, while the fruity and funky notes can complement spicy or bold flavors.
Take your time
Savouring sour beers is all about taking the time to appreciate the nuances and complexities in each sip. Slow down, enjoy the aroma, and let the flavours unfold on your palate.
Sour beer is a fascinating and delicious world waiting to be explored. With a rich history, diverse flavours, and endless possibilities for innovation, there’s never been a better time to dive into the tangy world of sour beer.