Sour beer styles

In June, I launched into an exploration of sour beer styles for my column Hops & Barley for the Burlington Free Press. I could sit here and tell you that “sour beers are all the rage,” but I suspect that if you’re reading this post, you’re already familiar with the resurgence of sour styles into the popular sphere.

In the first column, which BFP titled “What is a sour beer, and which to try?”, I dove into kettle-soured and sour-mashed styles: Berliner Weisse and Gose.

For a good deal of human history, beers were sour just as a matter of course. Brewers work with sugar sources in warm, moist environments, which, although ideal for alcoholic fermentation, is also ideal for  wild souring bacteria. Oak beer barrels were like hostels for this bacteria. It flourished in the nooks and crannies of the wood, and enjoyed a free meal of sweet unfermented beer while the brewer’s yeast wasn’t looking.

Read the rest of the first column here.

IMG_4264Next, I explored the more complicated “live culture” sour beer styles of Lambic and Flemish Sour Ales. This column was titled “Lambic beers: a gateway to sours.” (It should be noted that like most writers, I do not come up with the headline titles.)

More than 100 different microbes can be in play in these styles, but the major ones are Saccharomyces, Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Acetobacter. Saccharomyces is a family of yeasts know as “brewer’s yeasts” and Lactobacillus we covered last time (think yogurt’s tangy tartness).

To read more about these “wild yeasts” and the styles in which they play a staring role, click here.

Let me know about your favorite sour beers!

And, as always, thanks for reading!


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