There’s a new type of craft beer in town and it’s sure to make you wrinkle your face. It’s sour beer and it’s taking over craft breweries near you, with beer aficionados and beginner drinkers alike enjoying a fresh take on that malty liquid. Here’s what makes a sour beer.
I first tried sour beer a year or so back and instantly disliked it. I like drinking beer — not all types — but this combined aspects I didn’t enjoy, namely the sour part. Since then, however, I’ve tasted it a few more times and have become accustomed to the taste, which for me sits between cider and beer with a strong fruity flavour and tart aftertaste.
A few weeks back when I ordered the drink, someone asked me what makes it sour. The reality was I had no idea at all, and it got me.
What is sour beer?
As the name suggests, sour beer is intentionally made with a sour or tart finish. Unlike ales and lagers, which are usually characterised as being bitter or sweet, sour ales thrive in making you wince a little. They come in a range of different colours depending on the flavouring and are often cloudy in appearance.
While it may seem like a recent trend, sour beer has been around for centuries. One of the most popular versions, the Berliner Weisse, originated in northern Germany and has been around since, at least, the 16th century, while the Gose, also from Germany, is said to have been first created in the 13th century.
It’s likely there’s been a recent surge in interest for sour beers due to the rise in Australia’s craft beer industry, bringing in punters keen on trying new and interesting types of beer.
How sour beer’s made
According to Cascade Brewing, sour beers are made by feeding sugars to bacteria, which would usually spoil the other beers we’re used to. These bacteria — lactobacillus, pediococcus or acetobactor — release acids which create the sour tastes this variety of beer has. Depending on how sour you want to make the brew, you’d allow more acid to be released into the vat of unfermented beer.
To give the sour beer a unique flavour, fruits and spices are added. This is what gives different variants their distinct flavour.
Because the process takes a while and requires more attention compared to standard ales and lagers, sour beers are often plagued with steeper price tags. Still, it’s worthwhile giving them a try as a little treat if you’re feeling adventurous.
What types of sour beer exist?
As mentioned above, there’s the classic Berliner Weisse, a wheat beer soured and flavoured with raspberry and other fruits. It’s often pinkish in colour and is a good place to start if you’ve yet to try a sour beer.
Another common sour beer is the Gose, which is a bit more intense than the Weisse. It tastes a bit more sour with hints of herbs and salt.
The remaining types of sour beers really do vary depending on what the brewers decided to concoct. The main variations really lie in the sourness, the fruits its been flavoured with, what colour the end result is and whether someone’s added flavouring syrup to it. The colour spectrum can range from yellow to bright red.
The possibilities are truly endless.
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