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3 refreshing, sour beers to beat the heat

June 20, 2018

Sour beer is the oldest type of beer in history and there’s a lot of it on tap right now. I wouldn’t say it’s making a come back from its early days prior to pasteurization, but we can expect to see more sours as brewers naturally brew toward the roots of their craft.

Just as any accomplished artist understands the history of their industry, so does a brewer. But consumers must become enlightened as well. There is no profit in brewing a beer for industry insiders and aficionados alone. Prior to being educated on the subject of sours, consumers who were new to this unique beverage would return them with claims that they tasted “off,” “tart,” and brandished a “funky” flavor.

A wild process

Modern-day consumers look forward to the complexities found in a sour so brewers can confidently share a rich history lesson by pouring it right into your glass.

It might sound unpleasant, but it’s bacteria combined with wild yeast, which produces the distinctive sour flavor in these beers. Brettanomyces is a type of wild yeast known to brewers for centuries to create sour beer. It produces earthy flavors and aromas often described as “funky.” The two types of bacteria commonly used are lactobacillus and pediococcus. Lactobacillus, used in the making of yogurt, is responsible for giving the finished product a slight tartness. Pediococcus, naturally found in plants and ripened cheese, is the other type of bacteria used in sour beers. The longer pediococcus is left in the brew, the more acidity a brewer can expect. So, ladies be warned! Your mouth-puckering lips may look like you’re flirting after sipping on a sour.

If all that isn’t enough to digest, brewers take advantage of barrel aging techniques to add additional layers of flavor. Previously used wine or bourbon barrels contain tiny microorganisms that live within the confines of the wood. With time and patience, these living microorganisms will inoculate themselves into the beer producing an array of pleasing aromas and flavors.

Some to try

We tend to gravitate towards lemonade, grapefruit juice and margaritas in the hot summer months. Sours can be that go-to beer when we’re ready for an engaging alternative. Next time your taste buds are open for something new, consider a lambic, Flemish red, Berliner Weisse or a gose as they all fall under the category of a sour.

As with all things in life, there’s an ebb and flow within the craft beer industry. When one brewer eases up on creating a specific style, another brewer will inevitably fill the void. Just like the other beer styles, sours aren’t going anywhere. And don’t forget, they were here first.

Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer and the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.

Hop Farm Brewing Co.

Cherry Bomb

Sour (8.5% ABV). Pours a red hue with a thin white effervescent head. Light aromas of cherry and biscuit with a hint of sourness from brettanomyces. Flavors of both sweet and tart Michigan cherries. Body is light to medium and finishes with a soft sourness.

Bloom Brew

Shake and Stutter

Sour (6.7% ABV) Pours red with a white foam head. Aromas of cherry with grains. Flavors of sweet cereal grain along with oak that follow acidic cherry. Medium body with a tart cherry finish. Aged in American oak, red wine barrels for 18 months.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Sea Quench Ale

Sour (4.9% ABV). Pours hazy golden yellow with a fluffy white foam head. Aromas of salt, biscuit, and lime. Flavors of citrus, salt, and lime. Light body with a vibrant carbonation. Finishes slightly malty with a puckering tartness.