Sour Power: The 18 Best Sour Beers
One of the biggest trends in beer in recent years has been the emergence of sour beers among the best new releases. Many sour beers are aged for years in oak barrels, and in many cases they are one-off special beers that will never be brewed again. Sour beers are fermented using a bacteria which creates acid in the beer, and quite often they’re fermented using wild yeast native to the region the beer is brewed in.
There are a variety of sour beers available at many price ranges. Considering many sour beers are among the best beers in the world, if you compare the price of a sour beer to the finest wine in the world, it’s only a fraction of the cost. We attempted to find some sour beers that can be had at affordable prices, and year round. Some of them however, are quite rare, so don’t waste anytime rushing out to your local bottle shop. Here are our picks for the 18 best sour beers available.
Anderson Valley Blood Orange Gose
One of the prohibiting factors when one gets into sour beers is the price, as sour beers require extended, complex fermentation, and specialized yeast. Because of this, a sour beer may routintely cost more for a 12 or 22 oz. bottle than a normal craft six pack. Anderson Valley’s Blood Orange Gose is uniquely tart, and also comes in a six pack that is comparably price to most craft six packs.
Destihl Counter Clockweisse
One of the styles most receptive to sour fermentation is a Berliner Weisse. At one point a Berliner Weisse was a style that was nearly extinct, but the growing trend of sour beers has revived the once-favorite German style. Counter Clockweisse is part of Destihl’s “Wild Sour Series,” which also includes “Here Gose Nothing,” another wheat based sour beer.
Duchesse De Bourgogne
At one point in our drinking career we weren’t big sour fans. This may seem blasphomous now, but it all had to start somewhere. One of our loyal and generous friends introduced us to “Duchesse,” as it’s called by people who don’t want to take a stab at pronouncing “De Bourgogne.” Our friend called Duchesse a “gateway sour,” and he was right, as it balances sweet and sour with remarkable precision, and provides a soft landing for new sour drinkers without compromising complexity.
Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Pluot
If you live on the West Coast, or are lucky enough to have traded with someone who does, Almanac’s sours are something of a benchmark for sour beers. Generally more on the tart side of the sour spectrum, Almanac experiments with several different fruits, but in this case they use a hybrid fruit, making this beer extremely unique. A pluot, for those who don’t know, is a hybrid between a plum and an apricot, and that blend of sweet and tart couldn’t make a better subject of a sour beer.
The Bruery Tart of Darkness
The majority of sour beers, in our experience at least, are either a Berliner Weisse, or some other form of medium-bodied, medium-darkness ale. Tart of Darkness, as would be inherent in the name, is a pitch black stout that is sour fermented in oak barrels. Tart of Darkness has a relatively low ABV for a stout at 7.2 percent. This characteristic can often leave stouts thin and lacking definition, but in the case of Tart of Darkness, it only allows its willing consumer to consume even more.
de Garde Bu Weisse
From Tillamook, Oregon, de Garde Brewing has become one of the most renowned brewers of sours. They make a wide variety of beers, and generally they are one-offs, but a large portion of them are variations of de Garde’s Bu Berliner Weisse. Bu becomes the base beer that is infused with an astounding assortment of fruits and other adjunct ingredients.
Jester King Atrial Rubicite
One of the greatest joys for beer drinkers, and sometimes any consumer of food or beverage, is when local ingredients are use to make something delicious. Jester King ups the ante with their highly acclaimed Atrial Rubicite, using local Texas yeast in their fermentation. Jester King also uses wheat, barley, hops, and a special souring bacteria to make this delicious offering.
Lost Abbey Veritas
Lost Abbey Brewing has long been known for brewing amazing beers of many styles. Veritas, their annual sour wild ale, is one of their most highly sought after. Lost Abbey holds a release party every year, and has sold this beer online for the past three years at least.
Firestone Walker Feral One
There is some debate over whether or not sours are worthy or receptive to cellaring. Depending on how long you hang onto a sour beer it may have several points of maturation that counter each other. Because Feral One is aged in oak barrels — and especially because Firestone Walker suggests Feral One can handle some age — it is a good beer to buy one now, and to save one for a year or two to see how it turns out.
New Glarus Raspberry Tart
For many people New Glarus Brewing is known for their iconic, and eminently crushable Spotted Cow Cream Ale. Their Raspberry Tart however, takes a fruit that is already quite tart, and pairs it with sour fermented malt to accent the tartness of the fruit and the beer at the same time.
New Belgium La Folie
Part of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, La Folie is delightfully tart and because it comes from a larger craft brewery it is much easier to find than a typical sour. La Folie is a brown ale that is barrel aged for up to three years, and that produces flavors sour green apple, and the skin of vine fruit.
Russian River Supplication
When most people think of Russian River Brewing, they thing of the legendary Pliny the Elder, or the mythical white whale Pliny the Younger. That in mind, Russian River has shown an ability to dominate in several beer styles, and Supplication is their highly-rated sour wild ale.
Perennial La Bohem
For a long time we only knew Perennial for their highly respected and sought after Abraxas stout. Though they are from Missouri, Perennial finally made their way into our local bottle shop. La Boheme is aged for two years in red wine barrels with cherries, and outpaces red wine in terms of enjoyment for most beer drinkers.
Dogfish Festina Peche
Another on a short list of affordable sours, Dogfish’s Festina Peche is about the same price as any of their normal four packs. Festina Peche is a Berliner Weisse that is fermented with peaches, and that has a price and ABV that will allow you to drink it all night without ruining your bank account.
Engine House No. 9 Diablo Rouge
One of our first exposures to sours was when Engine House No. 9 held an event to release several sours that they’d been fermenting for more than a year. Their “sour fest” was highlighted by Diablo Rouge, a Belgian Dubbel that is sour fermented and aged in Cabernet Sauvinon barrels.
Bear Republic Tartare
Like many of the breweries on this list, Bear Republic may be best known for beers that undergo normal, non-sour fermentation. In the case of Bear Republic, their Racer 5 IPA has been a frequent award winner, but Tartare is no slouch. Tartare is a Berliner Weisse that is quite sour, and that has won awards of its own.
Uinta Birthday Suit
For the past three years Utah’s Uinta Brewing celebrates their birthday, the anniversary of their founding, by brewing a new version of Birthday Suit. The first year was a sour cherry ale, the second a sour red ale, and most recently they brewed a sour farmhouse ale.
Black Market 5th Anniversary Kentucky Sour
Much of this list has been a revival or reinterpretation of a classic style, and in the best cases sour beers have been able to revive styles that had gone all but extinct. There may be no more rare beer style than a “common beer” whose most notable example is Anchor Steam. Black Market opted for a sour mash similar to what would be used to make whiskey, and amped up the sour flavor in their interpretation of a common beer.