The Wonderful World of Sour Beer
As long as beer has been made, there has likely been sour beer. Now, it probably wasn’t all purposeful, but since beer was being brewed before we had microscopes or knew what yeast was and it’s impact on fermentation, most beers would have some level of sourness imparted by wild bacteria that assisted in fermentation.
Sour beer is created by bacteria consuming the sugar in the freshly brewed wort (what will eventually become beer). When it consumes the sugar, one of it’s byproducts is acid. Depending on what bacteria, it could be lactic acid or acetic acid, or many other (often less desirable) acids. The acid lowers the pH of the beer, creating a tart, puckering flavor and mouthfeel.
Belgian brewers have been experimenting with sour beers for some time. They brew beers, such as lambics, that are open-fermented, meaning that they ferment without a top on the fermentor, allowing whatever yeast and bacteria is in the air to come in and begin fermenting the wort. They also age beers in wooden barrels that are inoculated with wild yeast and bacteria. They then blend the resulting beer from various barrels to achieve the desired level of sourness.
In the US, very few breweries experimented with sour beers, until very recently. Bringing wild yeast and bacteria into the brewery could wreak havoc, finding it’s way into beers that shouldn’t be sour and infecting many batches of beer that would have to be thrown out. However, as the science around the isolation and propagation of these wild yeast and bacteria strains has improved, and we, as an industry, have a better understanding of sour beer, more breweries are beginning to try their hand at sours.
If you haven’t tried a sour beer, now is the time! Sour beers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from the mildly tart, to the tongue-twisting sour. Some sours use fruits to bring in sweetness that balances out the sourness. Some use salt. Some are aged in wine or spirit barrels and bring in a flavor of oak to the beer. They’re light, they’re dark, some are hoppy, some are sweet. Sours, in general, are unlike any other beer. Even non-beer drinkers often find themselves enjoying a sour beer, as it has similarities with some wines and cocktails, often without the bitterness that most beers have.
At The Glass Jug, we always keep two sour or wild-fermented beers on draft for you to try in your flight, by the pint, or to-go in a growler. We also have an ever-growing selection of sour beers that we are always happy to discuss with you. Some of our favorites come from NC breweries, such as Wicked Weed, while others are coming in from the West Coast (Cascade Brewing, for example, is an excellent one), while we also have a wide variety of sours that are imported from Belgium.
On Saturday, August 1st, we’re going to give you one of the best opportunities to try a wide variety of sour beers. Along with Sam’s Bottle Shop, we are co-hosting one of the biggest sour beer events the Triangle area has seen. On Saturday, we will be putting twelve sour beers on draft. Then, on Sunday, August 2nd, Sam’s will be putting another 10+ on draft. Over the course of the weekend, you could potentially try almost 30 different sour beers, learning what flavors you love (and maybe which you don’t), while building an understanding of what this sour beer trend is all about.
Below are the lists of what you will find on draft that weekend. So come hang out, bring some friends, awaken your taste-buds, and take a trip to the wild and funky side of craft beer!