If you haven’t jumped on the sour beer bandwagon just yet, the time is now. The popular style—which is super accurately named—has infiltrated pretty much every neighborhood bar around the U.S. and beyond, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“It feels like only yesterday, but sour beers really fell into the American beer landscape starting about 5 years ago,” says Zach Mack, cicerone (AKA certified beer expert) and co-owner of ABC Beer Co. in New York City. “What was once relegated to obscure Belgian and German towns became household names overnight, especially Berliner Weisses and Goses."
While IPAs, Lagers, Pilsners, and the like won't be disappearing from tap lists anytime soon, Mack believes consumers respond to the newness of the tart taste you get with a sour beer.
"I feel like their popularity was driven by the fact that they cover a completely different threshold of flavors for beer that the vast majority of Americans didn't even know existed," he says. "It helped open interest in beer beyond the hop-saturated flavor profiles that dominated the early days of the [craft beer] movement into new territories, converting new beer fans along the way.”
Translation? They’re delicious, tart, and refreshing, and not the usual “beer” so many drinkers are used to. So what should you try if you’re ready to dip your toes into the style? Mack and I have some ideas…
“This has become a cork-and-cage classic in the past few years, if only because New Belgium is one of the only breweries of this size that make and distribute an Oud Bruin this good,” says Mack. “It's Old World beer made in the New World, with deeply rich fruity notes of plum and black cherry before a refreshingly tart finish. A perfect food pairing beer if there ever was one.”
“Sixpoint created one of the most crowd-pleasing versions of a Gose off the bat, providing a slightly salty sour flavor profile that is refreshing and bright, all in a conveniently picnic-friendly can format,” says Mack. “Their fruited versions don't hurt, either!”
Session beers are relatively low in alcohol content, so you can drink them over an extended period, otherwise known as a session (get it?). This session sour from Asheville’s Wicked Weed brewery clocks in at 4.5% ABV and is super fruity (obviously) and bright. Perfect for summer parties and hangouts.
“Berliner Weisse has known popularity in its day—Napoleon's troops actually called it 'the champagne of the North'—but leave it to essential American breweries like Firestone Walker to produce such thoughtfully crafted beers in such quantities as Bretta Weisse,” says Mack. “Bright tropical fruit flavors come up alongside funky tartness to create a world-class version of the style, which still respects the historically sessionable ABV of 4.9%.”
This super interesting and unique sour is award-winning, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a 7% ABV blackberry sour ale that’s tart, refreshing, and smooth. Basically, it’s everything you could want out of a fruity beer.