Sour beer is an acquired taste, much like stinky cheese or Andrew Dice Clay. Initially, it can come off abrasive, leaving your taste buds confused and angry. Give it a chance, however, and there might be an aha moment, one where you finally understand the hoopla. How about we help you skip the palate-wrecking experiments and get right to the good stuff? Let’s expedite the process so you can experience sour beer nirvana.
One disclaimer before we get going. “Sour beer” isn’t a singular style, kinda like how “dark beer” isn’t one either. Instead, sour beer refers to a collection of styles that all have somewhat of a sour profile. You have Berliner Weisses. You have Lambics. You have Goses that deliver the tart with a few dashes from the salt shaker. All of them are considered for the list. So, without further ado, these are the best sour beers you should try once in your life.
Beer fans talk about Cantillon the way hip-hop fans talk about Nas’ Illmatic. It’s the name everyone respects, regardless of their tastes. Even those who’d rather down a decent IPA over a lambic know the name “Cantillon.” Well, you should enjoy lambics—or at least give them a shot. And if you’re going to give them a shot, why not go with an all-timer from the masters? Cantillon Gueuze is a wonderful lambic blend that packs notes of lemon, oak, and barnyard funk. A wild ale, Cantillon Gueuze is fermented only from the yeast in the air, as the open windows at the Cantillon brewery allow the breeze to float in from outside and help impart that signature Cantillon profile so many go gaga for. You can’t go wrong with anything from the Brussels-based brewery, but their classic Gueuze is a must-try. Then you can move on to Fou’Foune and others. Link
If you haven’t tried Westbrook’s standard Gose, maybe try that first. It’s a wonderful example of the tart and salty style. When you’re ready for something a little more playful, grab a can of liquid dessert. Westbrook Key Lime Pie Gose is packed with notes of the oft whipped cream-topped sweet. But whereas dessert-flavored stouts can deliver a cloying profile that limits you to a few ounces, Westbrook Key Lime Pie Gose is bright and lively, allowing for all-day imbibing. Hit with some salt and coriander, Key Lime Pie Gose is a flavorful beer that only clocks in at 4% ABV. Link
Pliny the Elder put Russian River on the map. Or, at least it did for your casual beer fan. The hoppy beers from Russian River are great; the sour beers are even better. Our pick of the litter is Consecration, a big, flavorful sour beer that’s bursting with dark fruit and rich chocolate notes. At 10% ABV, this is little like the summertime sipper we just mentioned, so maybe don’t crack it a barbecue or while you’re swimming in the pool. You should crack it, however, when you want to pore over a beer and appreciate a bouquet of aromas and flavors. Then proceed to the rest of the tart offerings from the Santa Rosa brewery, including Temptation, Beatification, Sanctification, and other words that end in -ion. Link
Imagine someone took some tart cherries, dipped them in chocolate syrup, and finished them in some sort of vanilla and caramel coating. You’d eat that, right? Well, to us, that’s Crooked Stave’s Nightmare on Brett. The tart brew packs rich chocolate notes and pulls some vanilla and caramel from the time spent in bourbon and whiskey barrels. There’s a lot going on in this 9.666% ABV sour, and we recommend you spend some time unpacking it. Link
Flanders Red Ale is a style we gravitate toward any time we’re in a knowledgeable bar with a well-curated bottle list. Always complex and always delightfully tart, the style is actually somewhat underappreciated, we feel. When you’re talking traditional Flanders Reds, you’re talking Duchesse De Bourgogne, a thick, earthy, sweet, and tart brew from Belgium. One sip is all it takes to see what a beautifully complex beer can offer that a simple one-noter can’t. We keep a couple bottles in our cellar for special occasions year-round. Link
We’re going a little off script with this one, as you can’t find Cascade Mulled Apple Sour anywhere but in Casacade’s tasting room in Portland, Oregon. Why? Well, it’s rather unique. As you might have gathered from the name, it’s a hot beer. Yes, as in it’s served warm. It’s basically a tart apple pie straight from the oven, liquefied, and poured into a tasting glass. If you love hot toddies and beer, this is the sour you want to sip during the winter. Link
You can’t go wrong with anything from 3 Fonteinen. Armand Debelder knows his craft and he knows it well, so trust any bottle you come across. That said, if we had to choose one of their lambics to consume for the rest of our days it would be Oude Geuze Golden Blend. A blend of young and 4 year old lambic, Golden Blend’s exact blend is a secret only Debelder knows. Take a sip and you’ll be banging on his door for the magic potion. (IMG)
Berliner Weissbier is the sour beer made for summer. The low alcohol, bubbly wheat beer is ripe for fruity experimentation, and that’s just what J. Wakefield did, brewing a Berliner Weisse with mango, guava, and passion fruit. On top of that, they cranked up the ABV to 5.50%, making—what they call—a “Imperial Berliner.” All we can tell you is it works. Still light and refreshing enough for summertime imbibing, Miami Madness is loaded with tropical flavors that will transport you to the beaches of some exotic island. Link
The first time we tasted Duck Duck Gooze, The Lost Abbey’s blend of young and old barrel aged wild ales, was during Philly Beer Week many years ago. We tasted a lot of great beer that week, but DDG still stands out to this day. Oak notes mix with bright acidity for a rather complex beer that goes down easy. Made as an homage to the legendary beers of Belgium, Duck Duck Gooze does those beers proud. Link
Brewed with an abundance of Montmorency cherries, Wisconsin Belgian Red is basically fruit juice. The cherries take center stage, as a malty sweetness plays nicely with the tartness from the fruit. Plus, New Glarus loves keeping things local, so not only are the cherries from nearby Door County, Wisconsin, but the wheat is also from The Badger State. If you should find yourself in Wisconsin, stock up. Link
Instead of picking one specific J.R.E.A.M. from Burley Oak for you to try and get your hands on, we’re giving you the series as a whole, so grab any you can. Most are very good and some are extraordinary. The reason the J.R.E.A.M. series makes the list is because it was the that clued us in on the lactose and fruit sour thing that’s slowly being popularized by breweries like Hudson Valley. Most everything Hudson Valley puts out is gold, but we’re sticking with the beer that tipped us off to the trend. The lactose and fruit make for a tart, smoothie-like beer that’s refreshing and loaded with flavor. Link
Far too many beer drinkers only know Allagash as the brewery that makes Allagash White, that uber-drinkable wheat beer that tastes like summer in a bottle. Allagash White is great, but if you haven’t dabbled in their tart beers, you don’t know what you’re missing. One of the finest sour producers in the States, Allagash has a number of mouth-puckering gems. For this list, we’ll go with our favorite, Farm to Face. Farm to Face is a pale ale introduced to pediococcus and lactobacillus along with plenty of peaches. The result is a juicy, peach-forward beer with a pleasant tartness throughout. Like we tell everyone, don’t sleep on Allagash. Link
There’s only one proper way to enjoy Atrial Rubicite. You need to haul yourself down to Austin, Texas, when it’s released and appreciate the assertively tart raspberry beer while kicking back on the gorgeous property. Believe us when we tell you that your troubles will slip away and you’ll be consumed by Mother Nature and one of the most memorable beers you’ll ever taste. Unless you hate raspberries. Then maybe find something else. Link