Dare to live on the wild side? Then you my friend need to jump into the world of sours. Sour beers may be intimidating at first, but once your taste buds experience the glory of these beers you’ll be hooked.
Sour beers have an exhilarating flavor profile that runs the gamut of complexity. Drinking one can be like sucking on a sour patch kid in the most pleasant way or taste like the best Belgian funk in a glass you’ve ever had. What qualifies as a sour, however, can be a bit confusing. Relying on wild yeast strains and bacteria, sours are often brewed with Brettanomyces and inoculated with lactobacillus and pedioccocous. It’s this symbiotic relationship that produces lactic acid, creating that sour flavor we know and love.
Beyond the brewing process, what can also be confusing are the styles. Sours aren’t a one size fits all. They are categorized into a broad range of beer styles which include Flanders red ale, lambic, oud bruin, gose, Berliner Weisse, and American sours. Each one has their own special nuances making it taste completely different than the others. Get a taste of one, or all styles for that matter, and you’ll soon get drawn into the heavenly world of sour beer.
Speaking of heavenly, we round up some of the best sours the beer gods have graciously gifted us. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned sour expert, these are the ones that you have got to try.
1. Avery Brewing Raspberry Sour
New to the world of sours? Ease into it with Avery’s Raspberry Sour. The raspberries hit your pallet, coating your tongue in the delicious ripe fruity flavor along with the subtlety of the oak barrels and sourness of the lactic acid. Be forewarned, one sip and you will be looking for nothing but sour beers on a tap list.
2. Cascade Brewing Apricot Ale
What can I say other than you just have to try this sour ale. Cascade has a reputation for outputting some of the tastiest sours the northwest has to offer and this is no exception. They age several blondes in oak barrels for seven months with 13,000 pounds of fresh apricots. And that’s after it had already been aged for seven months. Like a fine wine, flavor like this takes time, but it’s worth the wait.
3. New Belgium La Folie
Not all good sours are impossible to find. Case in point, La Folie sour brown ale. Fat Tire may have put them on the map, but this is by far one of the best beers they produce. The sharp flavor has a unique profile of cherry, green apple, and plum with a touch of oak from the French foeders. Swirl it in a glass and savor each drop of its tasty rich mahogany hue.
4. Wicked Weed Oblivion
For a minute let’s forget all the backlash that Wicked Weed faced when selling out and let’s talk about good beer. Specifically Oblivion. This American wild ale is incredible. It’s brewed with a massive amount of blackberries as well as dates. The result is a fruity, tart sour with a hint of oak notes from the barrel. With deliciousness like this, it’s hard to stop at just one.
5. The Bruery Tart of Darkness
While practically everything The Bruery outputs is worthy of imbibing, Tart of Darkness is one you won’t want to miss. This sour stout is aged in barrels that previously held their Sucre or Black Tuesday brews – yeah, so you know it’s good already. They didn’t stop there. They added sweet cherries and vanilla to the mix giving you the sour that winter dreams are made of. Or possibly summer. It’s fruity, it’s roasty, and it’s the dark sour you need in your life.
6. Russian River Supplication
You can’t talk sours without mentioning the legacy of Russian River. These folks not only make one of the best damn IPAs on the market, but their sours are even more mind-blowing – and this is one of them. Incorporating the sour beer trifecta – brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus – they age a brown ale for a year with the addition of cherries in Pinot Noir barrels. This right here is what sour beer is all about.
7. Russian River Consecration
Consecration by @russianriverbrewingofficial • Wine Barrel-aged Sour with Currants • 10% ABV • Santa Rosa, CA Happy Friday everyone! Here's one from last week. My first taste of a Russian River beer. A funky complex dark sour! Darn good! Thanks again to @rynorr for sharing! #beer #craftbeer #californiacraftbeer #russianriver #russianriverbrewing #consecration #russianriverconsecration #sourale #sourbeer #cabernetsauvignonbarrelaged #darksourwithcurrants #currants #barrelaged #winebarrelaged #drinkcraftbeer #supportcraftbeer #craftnotcrap #craftbeerporn #craftbeergeek #craftbeerlove #beersofinstagram #beertography #instabeer #beerstagram #latergram #usacraftbeer #americancraftbeer
I know this is a short list, but if you had either of these Russian River sours you would know why I couldn’t mention one and not the other. To make this phenomenal sour, the fine folks at Russian River take a dark ale and age it in Cab Sav barrels with black currants. I could then explain the nuances of the flavor profile, but really the best way to describe this is pure bliss.
And yes, it tastes even better straight from the brewery itself. Maybe it’s their draft system, maybe it’s the ambiance, but if you love sours (or craft beer in general) you need to take a trip to Russian River and order a tulip of this.
8. Jester King Atrial Rubicite
What does Jester King make that’s not amazing? While there’s too much goodness to choose from, we do have to mention their sensational fruit beer Atrial Rubicite. Hundreds of pounds of raspberries are tossed into an already mature barrel aged sour and left to referment. The result is a complex sour so good, you’ll be telling your friends to get their hands off your bottle.
9. Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale
I’ll never forget the look on my friend’s face when I busted out a bottle of Red Poppy. He had heard of its myth but was never fortunate enough to have tried it due to limited distribution and not living anywhere near San Marcos, California. And I have to say, with one sip his expectations were beyond met – and so were mine. They take a brown ale base and age it in oak barrels with one beautiful addition added, cherries. If you can get your hands on this, consider yourself lucky.
10. Allagash Brewing Resurgam
Don’t look for this on your local grocery store shelf, you won’t find it. The Resurgam is a sour that beer lovers take a pilgrimage up to Maine for. Left to cool overnight in the fresh Maine open air, this beer is inoculated with local terroir then aged in French oak barrels. As a finale, it’s blended with one, two, and three-year-old batches. The result is a tart, fruity funky beer that’s perfectly balanced and totally worth the trip.