Sour Beer Styles

Sour Beer Styles

Most traditional beer styles primarily use Saccharomyces as yeast for fermentation. Sour beers may include Saccharomyces, but also include Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus, as well as numerous other wild yeast or bacteria that provide a distinct and wide range of flavors.

American Wild Ales  Any of a number of beers that include mixed fermentations of any combination of Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus. Can be aged in wooden barrels, although not always. Primary sour flavors can include acetic (vinegar), lactic (sour milk/yogurt), citric (vitamin C tablet), as well as earthy, grassy, or barnyard flavors that are often Brettanomyces-derived. Examples of this style: New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Series, along with beers made by The Bruery, Russian River, and Prairie Artisan Ales.

Berliner Weisse German-style wheat beer that is soured with Lactobacillus. Tart and refreshing, with a lactic tang. Contemporary craft beer versions include Jackie O’s Berliner Weisse, Dogfish Head’s Festina Pêche (with peaches), and Bell’s Oarsman.

Gose  German-style wheat beer soured with Lactobacillus and includes salt and coriander. The salt and lactic tartness is a wonderful combination. Currently a super popular style in American craft beer, especially fruited versions, like Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose. Other versions include Westbrook’s Gose, Victory’s Kirsch Gose, and Sierra Nevada’s Otra Vez.

Flanders Red  Belgian-style beer that is sour and fruity, noted for its red wine-like color and complexity. Traditionally aged in wooden barrels and fermented with a mix of Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and Pediococcus, along with wild yeasts and bacteria. American versions are often referred to as American Wild Ales, but many still use the Flanders Red name. Examples include Duchesse De Bourgogne, Rodenbach, and The Bruery’s Oude Tarte.

Gueuze  Belgian-style beer that is spontaneously fermented and aged in barrels. Gueuze is a blend of one, two, and three-year-old beers. Contains a full range wild yeasts, and is tart and citric when young, developing lactic, acetic, and other characteristics with age. Fruited versions include kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry). Gueuze is appellation specific (like Champagne), so American versions are labeled as American Wild Ales. Look for Brasserie Cantillon, Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, and Hanssens Artisanaal.

Tom Morgan is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Dayton with a particular interest in Paul Laurence Dunbar. He has been homebrewing for fifteen years, and is always looking for an excuse to read, write, and talk about local beer. Besides volunteering at local breweries, he is also a BJCP National-level beer judge. You call follow him on Instagram at whatweredrinking