Sour Beer Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Sour Beers

Sour Beer Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Sour Beers

If you’re a beer enthusiast, you’ve likely come across sour beer or maybe even tried your hand at brewing it. This distinctive type of beer has garnered a following among both experienced beer aficionados and newcomers, drawing people in with its tangy taste and enticing aroma, even appealing to those who aren’t typically beer fans.

Key Takeaways

  • Sour beer is a beer that encompasses a wide category, consisting of various substyles that pay particular attention to the level of acidity that a drinker can detect.
  • Sour beer gets its sour taste from specific types of bacteria.

Sour beers are notoriously challenging to produce and demand a lengthy aging process, which can deter some brewers from taking on the task. Nonetheless, those who do venture into making sour beers, as well as those who sell them, are rewarded with the opportunity to offer these bold and delightful brews to their customers.

Beer enthusiasts appreciate the intricate layers of flavors present in sour beers, while non-beer drinkers are drawn to the fact that sour beers don’t quite taste like the typical beer. While sour beers used to be hard to come by, they’ve become increasingly accessible in recent times.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the world of sour beer, exploring what it is, its historical background, and the intricate process of crafting these unique brews.

Sour Beer Explained: Everything You Need to Know About Sour Beers

What is Sour Beer?

Sour beer holds the title of being the oldest type of beer in history. In the past, almost all beer had a bit of sourness to it before the full understanding of pasteurization and sterilization techniques.

Sour beer is a type of beer that encompasses a wide category, consisting of various substyles that pay particular attention to the level of acidity that a drinker can detect. When this tartness is subtle, it can offer a truly refreshing experience. On the other hand, some sour beers can be quite intense, causing your cheeks to pucker and your eyes to squint. Craft brewers create a diverse array of sour beers, ensuring that you’re likely to find a type that suits your taste preferences.

Sour beers come in a diverse range of styles, spanning from intensely sour to earthly funky to light and fruity. Some of the most renowned sour beers hail from Belgium, where they are often aged in oak barrels, allowing the beer to breathe and fostering the development of various microorganisms.

What Makes Sour in the Sour Beer

So, what makes sour beer sour? Sour beer gets its sour taste from specific types of bacteria, while yeast contributes the funky and earthy qualities. In today’s sour beers, two main types of bacteria and one type of wild yeast play a significant role in shaping the flavor.

The first is lactobacillus, a bacteria that transforms sugars into lactic acid. This is the same acid that gives yogurt its slightly sour taste and causes muscles to feel sore after exercising. The second is pediococcus, a bacteria from the same family as lactobacillus, often utilized in Belgian beers to introduce acidity. Pediococcus can function without oxygen, and the acidity in the beer increases the longer it remains. With time, pediococcus can also generate diacetyl, a compound that imparts a buttery flavor.

The wild yeast found in sour beers is called Brettanomyces, unlike the yeast strains responsible for producing ales or lagers, Brettanomyces has a reputation for potentially ruining beer. At its worst, Brett can introduce undesirable flavors and aromas resembling poopy or Band-Aids. However, at its best, it can contribute a balancing layer of earthiness to the beer.

While all of these bacteria consume sugar like regular brewing yeast, their production of lactic and acetic acids cannot be replicated by typical yeast strains. Some brewers also add fruit during the aging process to enhance the flavor, stimulate secondary fermentation, or incorporate microbes naturally present on the fruit’s skin.

Although sour are classified as “beer,” they differ significantly from other types of beer. Typically, sour beers do not utilize the traditional brewer’s yeasts, such as saccharomyces cerevisiae, and many are not produced in a completely sterile environment. Numerous Belgian brewers intentionally welcome wild yeast and bacteria to permeate their sour brews by cooling their wort (the unfermented beer) outdoors.

Moreover, while the majority of beers are aged in metal fermentation tanks, sours are commonly aged in wooden vessels, allowing communities of organisms to thrive within the beer. Interestingly, it took nearly a decade for the initial sour beer enthusiasts to realize that the sour taste was intentional and not a mistake on the part of the brewer.

Also read: The Most Popular German Beer (Beer Jerman) Styles in the World

History and the Origin of the Sour Beer

Sour beers boast a rich historical background and are regarded as the predecessors of many contemporary beer varieties. Here are some key points to keep in mind about them.

The origins of beer brewing and consumption can be dated back to approximately 4,000 B.C., during a time when all beers were essentially sour. During this period, various naturally occurring bacteria, including lactobacillus (also known as “sour milk bacteria”), were present in beer. These living organisms, often referred to as “bugs,” inhabited the beer throughout the fermentation process, resulting in a sour or funky flavor.

The earliest sour beers were crafted in Belgium in the early 18th century, and some breweries in Flanders, northern Belgium, have been in operation for several centuries. Following the Civil War, numerous Belgian and German immigrants introduced sour beer to the United States, yet this style remained relatively hard to come by in America until the 1970s.

With the advancements and increased prevalence of refrigeration and pasteurization technologies in the mid-19th century, sour beers largely disappeared as lagers and ales took center stage. However, since the 1970s, sour beers have experienced a surge in popularity among beer enthusiasts worldwide.

Types of the Beer in Sour Beer

Types of the Beer in Sour Beer

Sours come in various styles, and here are a few examples:

Berliner Weisse

First up is Berliner Weisse, hailing from Northern Germany. This style is characterized by its dry and tangy wheat beer taste, featuring a low alcohol by volume (ABV) and lively carbonation, making it effortlessly drinkable. Certain variations of Berliner Weisse include the use of Brettanomyces yeast, while others focus on lactic acid bacteria.


Goses originate from Goslar, Germany, and typically involve the addition of coriander and salt during the brewing phase. Goses offer a diverse range of flavors, but they consistently maintain a harmonious blend of salty, herbaceous, and sour notes.

American Wild Ale

This is a catch-all category for sour beers originating in America. Craft brewers often create their version of sour beers using a combination of ale yeast and Brettanomyces yeast. Apart from the distinct sour taste and wild yeast presence, American wild ales generally do not adhere to strict rules that dictate the style.

Also read: Wheat Beer is A Classic Type of Beer. Discover More About it Here

You Can Enjoy Different Style of Gose at Canard

Do you want to try different kinds of Gose? Try Strawberry Gose from Canard! At Canard, we love our Goses. That’s why the Canard Strawberry Gose we brewed stands as a testament to a feeling of our deep affection for this extraordinary sour beer.

As you take in its delightful aroma, you’ll encounter the harmonious fusion of citrusy coriander seeds and the invigorating essence of ripe strawberries. It’s a true celebration of flavors that’s sure to captivate your senses.

Canard Strawberry Gose has an alcohol content of 3.7% ABV in a can, with a moderate body and high carbonation. The bitterness of Canard Strawberry Gose is not detectable. What sets this beer apart is its remarkable ability to achieve a harmonious balance, relying on its inherent natural acidity rather than hops. This acidity plays a pivotal role in counterbalancing the flavors of salt, malt, and yeast, creating a symphony of taste that’s truly exceptional.

Unleash the flavor and experience the sourness and freshness of Canard Strawberry Gose. Feel free to check our website here to find the best Strawberry Gose from Canard Brewing Co.

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