Sour Power: The New Trend in Beer

New Belgium Le Terroir dry-hopped sour ale.

For quite some time now, IPA has been an unstoppable force in the world of beer. Some brewmasters and experts went so far as to declare the trend following IPA would be…more IPA. However, it seems that the hoppy king has been dethroned by the unpredictable, ancient style that is sour beer, also known as American wild ale when brewed in the US.

Now, for some beer drinkers, the word “sour” doesn’t exactly activate the salivary glands. Plenty of people will immediately imagine a beer that tastes like it has gone bad. Rest assured, though, that this style of beer is crafted with purpose and vision. It’s also incredibly difficult to get right. When nailed, however, sour beer is absolutely delicious. That caveat plays a large role in this beer style really gaining traction.

Sour beer is brewed using wild yeast and bacteria. Most commonly, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus – both lactic acid bacteria – and the yeast Brettanomyces are used to sour beer. Don’t let the word “bacteria” turn you off from this sensational style of beer – the same bacteria is used in yogurt, cheese and milk. The use of fruit can also help brewers achieve the sour, tart taste that is taking America by storm currently. It’s in the management of wild yeasts, bacteria, fruits (should the brewery use fruit), spices and more that the challenge arises. Wild yeast is, well, wild and therefore unpredictable. Add to that the management of additional ingredients along with aging the beer and you can begin to understand the difficulty of crafting a palate-pleasing sour beer. Producing a great example is incredibly difficult but when it all comes together the result is stunning: dry, acidic and sour with complex flavors and aromas.

It's likely that you won’t enjoy your first taste of sour beer. Don’t be discouraged – this style will likely grow on you over time. As we all know, “over time” means, “perfect excuse to drink a whole lot of new beers.” What could possibly be wrong with that? This primeval style is definitely worthy of being on both your radar and your palate.

Highly Rated Examples:

New Belgium Lips of Faith – Le Terroir (7.5% abv) A dry-hopped, easier to find American Wild Ale.

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Lost Abbey Cable Car (7.0% ABV) A Belgian-style American Wild Ale.

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The Bruery Tart of Darkness (7.0% ABV) Oak barrel-aged stout with a roasty flavor.

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