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Sour Beer

Learn all about sour beer from expert Katherine Kyle in this Howcast video.


Sour beers is another style of beers that are increasing in popularity. Although they tend to be very, very hard to grasp if you don't have a particular like for it. I remember the first time I tried a sour beer. You know, I took a sip and put it down and my mouth was puckering. And, I thought, What is that? Like I couldn't even understand that it was beer, but... right after that, I wanted another sip. There was something about it that I found really compelling, and as I drank more and more sours, I started wanting to try different ones.

Sour can be an off-flavoring beer. So, you have a lot of people who really don't want anything to do with sours because to them it's off-putting. It means something has gone wrong in the process. Whereas that can be the case, what's happening now-- and has happened traditionally, there are many traditional styles of sour beers like the Berliner Weisse, the Lambics and the Gueuzes. And, just to be clear the Gueuzes are a mix of Lambics. Those are a traditional Belgian style of beer that has been brewed for a very long time. But, what's happening now is that a lot of American producers are trying to come up with their own sours. 

What they're using now in order to create it are two pretty specific things.One is barrel aging, and you know a lot of times you'll find yeast in the barrels. In the wine-making world if you have a barrel that's infected with brettanomyces -- we're going to call it "Bret" -- it can be a huge problem, but in the beer world, when you are looking to make a sour beer, you actually want to find those yeasts. Either the wild yeasts surrounding the air if you're lucky enough to find a cool ship. A lot of times they'll try to help the process along by adding lactobacillus or pediococcus. Those can actually - those are the yeasts that tend to add the real sourness or astringency to the beer, and that can be really balanced out by adding some bread.

What that does hopefully, and what they're really aiming for is to create a really pleasant overall experience in the sour beer. So, with the addition of those yeasts for souring and the aging in the barrels, sour beers can take a very long time to produce - years really. These are an example of beers where you get into the price range of perhaps wines. You know you'll find some very expensive bottles, and the reason why is that it's taking up that much skill. It's not just the ingredients there or the brewing process. It's also the time and the storage and the artistry really of making a really good sour.

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