Pucker up! It’s time for some sour beers
In beer lingo, a sour beer is a brew that is made to be intentionally acidic and tart. Originally associated with Belgian breweries, where monks have long been using unique techniques to create their sour brews, the interest in sour beer is now growing.
Sour beers can be a finicky product, requiring ingredients like lactobacillus bacteria and Brettanomyces yeast to be added to the wort, which can produce many different flavors. Some brewers even go as far as to allow wild yeast and bacteria to enter the open vats of wort, but that can be unpredictable.
From there, some sort of fruit is often added and then the beer is aged in oak barrels for a year or more. The end result is rarely guaranteed, which makes it an interesting endeavor for a brewery to take on.
As for you, beer-drinker, what can you expect from a sour beer? First, strike from your mind any existing notions of the flavor of beer. Easy, right? To prep your palate, expect a sour beer to reminiscent of sour cherries or Jolly Ranchers: tart, acidic, with a roll of sweetness.
Since there is no way to tell when a beer will go sour (or if it actually will) it can be tricky to find them. Sour beers appear almost at random in brewery tasting rooms or bottles without much warning and will be gone in a flash. To give you a leg up on getting your hands on some sour, ask your local breweries if they have a sour program going and if they do, are they pouring any samples. If there are no local offerings to be had, well-stocked beer shops can point you towards a number of Belgian sour beers, where the technique first took root hundreds of years ago and where it continues to be wildly popular today.