Pucker Up! (Sour Beers)
In this blog we introduce to you the wonderful world of sour beers.
An introduction to the world of sour beers
India Pale Ale (IPA) is still the most popular style among craft beer drinkers. But many beer lovers have discovered a new-found love for some of the oldest of beer styles that date back centuries to the earliest of brewing traditions in Europe.
Back in the day, brewers made sour beers and wild ales because that’s all they could make. They didn’t have the cultured brewer’s yeast that’s available today. Rather, they relied on the natural “bugs” and open fermentation to do its work. The styles revived in recent years and are growing in popularity among local breweries. The beers can pack huge flavors or subtle complexities and typically are aged in wood and blended from a range of vintages.
Generally speaking, traditional Belgian sours can lean more toward the Balsamic vinegar spectrum of flavors and have a higher alcohol content (around 7 percent ABV). By comparison, the German sours and wild ales are lighter, often in the 3 percent to 5 percent ABV range, and focus on tart flavors. New American versions of the styles - well, they're all over the map.
There are many different sour beer variations from history, and many more invented as we speak. We have listed the most popular styles below.
• Berliner Weisse
At one time the most popular alcoholic beverage in Berlin, this is a somewhat weaker (usually around 3% abv) beer made sour by use of Lactobacillus bacteria. This type of beer is usually served with flavored syrups to balance the tart flavor
Gose (pronounced "go-suh") is a top-fermenting beer that originated in Goslar, Germany. This style is characterized by the use of coriander and salt and is made sour by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary alcoholic fermentation
• Flanders Red Ale
Descendent from English porters of the 17th century, Flanders red ales are first fermented with usual brewer’s yeast, then placed into oak barrels to age and mature. Usually, the mature beer is blended with younger beer to adjust the taste for consistency. The name comes from the usual color of these ales.
Lambic beer is spontaneously fermented beer made in the Pajottenland region of Belgium and Brussels. Wort is left to cool overnight in the koelschip where it is exposed to the open air during the winter and spring, and then placed into barrels to ferment and mature. Most lambics are blends of several season's batches, such as gueuze, or are secondarily fermented with fruits, such as Kriek and Framboise. As such, pure unblended lambic is quite rare, and few bottled examples exist.
A mixture of young (one-year-old) and old (two- and three-year-old) lambics that have been bottled. Because the young lambics are not yet fully fermented, it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle and produces CO2. A gueuze will be given a year to carbonate in the bottle but can be kept for 10-20 years.
Mars traditionally referred to a weaker beer made from the second runnings of a lambic brewing. It is no longer commercially produced. In the 1990s, Boon Brewery made a modern Mars beer called Lembeek's 2% (the 2% referring to the alcohol content), but its production has since been discontinued.
Historically, a low-alcohol, sweetened beer made from a blend of lambic and a much lighter, freshly brewed beer to which brown sugar was added. The fresh beer was referred to as meertsbier and was not necessarily a lambic. Sometimes herbs were added as well. The use of meertsbier (or water) and of substandard lambic in the blend made this a cheap, light, sweet drink for everyday consumption.
Today, faro is bottled, sweetened, and pasteurized to prevent refermentation in the bottle. Examples are produced by Cantillon, Boon, Lindemans or Mort Subite.
Lambic refermented in the presence of sour cherries (usually the morello variety) and with secondary fermentation in the bottle results in kriek. Traditional versions of kriek are dry and sour, just as traditional gueuze.
• Oud Bruin
Originating from the Flemish region of Belgium, oud bruins are differentiated from the Flanders red ale in that they are darker in color and not aged on wood. As such this style tends to use cultured yeasts to impart its sour notes.
• American Wild Ale
Beers brewed in America utilizing yeast and bacteria strains instead of or in addition to standard brewer’s yeasts tend to fall under the catch-all term American wild ale. These microflorae may be cultured or acquired spontaneously, and the beer may be fermented in a number of different types of brewing vessels. American wild ales tend not to have specific parameters or guidelines stylistically, but instead simply refer to the use of unusual yeasts.