Are Sours the New Black?

Lindemans Brewery

Written by Tom Becham for

Are Sour Beers the New Black?

As a beer geek friend of mine said to me recently, “You know what sour beers and World Cup Soccer have in common? Americans discovered they kinda liked both of them in 2010.”

It’s true. Sour beers have become a big trend in craft beer circles. If you’ve never had a sour beer (well, a GOOD sour beer), you may wonder why that is so.

A typical sour beer (they are always ales; lagers do NOT make for good sour beers) can be anywhere from pilsner-yellow to stout-black in color. The taste of sour beers has been described as acidic, acetic, vinegar-like and vinous. All of those descriptors can be true, but if you’ve never actually had a decent sour, then the words won’t mean a thing to you. Sour beers are also some of the most useful beers to convert wine lovers into craft beer lovers. Anyone who loves a brightly tannic red wine will also likely appreciate a sour beer.


What makes an ale sour? Well, there are a couple of things that can. First is a “wild” yeast, usually of the Brettanomyces strain. Of course, now these yeasts can be cultivated and used deliberately instead of just resulting from a “spontaneous fermentation”. Second is any range of bacteria, from lactobacillus (the stuff that sours milk) to pediococcus. Again, these bacteria are now frequently introduced into beers, though the randomness of barrel aging still seems to produce better results.
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