Sour Beer 101

Last Updated: June 23, 2024

An ancient style undergoing a 21st century growth spurt, sour beers are a broad category. Tartly fruited beers, bone-dry brews with funky barnyard notes, complex varieties that resemble wines, and many others qualify as sour beers. What they share is process: all sour beers are made with wild bacteria and yeasts.

Popular sour brands include Westbrook Gose and Breakside Brewing Passionfruit Sour Ale. Cantillon Lambic, from the 1900 Belgian brewery, is one of the world’s most famous sour beers. American breweries such as Hudson Valley, The Bruery, and Wicked Weed produce several sour beers.

The array of sour styles include lambics, or Belgian wheat beers made with spontaneous fermentation; Flanders, a Belgian variety usually fermented in wooden vats; American wild ale, a nebulously defined category that is often-but-not-necessarily made with Brettanomyces yeast; German goses, which typically have salty, herbaceous flavors; Berliner Weisse, a fizzy German category characterized by low ABV; and others. Learn more about this popular, eternally evolving style in VinePair’s articles about sour beer.

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