Sour beer, I wish I knew how to love you

I pride myself on my ability to adapt. To be able to appreciate everything, even when it comes to beer.

I’ve trained my palate to enjoy wine, olives, coffee, even super-hoppy IPAs. But I just can’t get my palate to like sours! And believe me, I’ve tried. I’m like Charlie Brown and the freaking football with sour beers, only sour beers are Lucy and my enjoyment is the elusive ball.

So, while other cool kids are diving right into this latest beer trend, I sit sadly on the sidelines, waiting for another fad to come along. Sigh.

What makes beers sour

The name of the game in the world of sour beer is WILD.

Wild yeasts and bacteria are what make a beer sour. As opposed to the yeasts used in other beers, which are often cultivated in labs, the wild yeasts and bacteria occur naturally where the beer is brewed. Some of these yeasts have become more popular and the main ones each offer a slightly different kind of sourness to beer.

The most popular sour-making yeast is brettanomyces, or brett for short. Brett is often said to give beers an earthy, barnyard character. Sounds weird, right? But people love it.

(Hot tip: brett shows up in wine too!)

What a sour beer tastes like

Here’s where things start to go off the rails for me. I love brett in wine and am eternally optimistic that my taste buds will like it in beer too. After all, I learned to love IPAs! I just keep drinking them and eventually my palate started to enjoy the face-punch that is a hoppy beer.

So why wouldn’t it work with sours?

Because every time I taste a sour I go through this process:

  • Ooh, a sour! Maybe this will be the one I like!
  • Ok, it smells funky, but maybe it’ll still have some depth on the palate
  • Hmmm, bright and acidic up front, definitely has that sour thing going on
  • Wait, what’s happening? Where is the bready, beery finish? Why is my mouth still smacking from sourness?
  • Ok, ew. That was unpleasant.
  • Maybe if I keep drinking it I’ll get used to it. Let’s give it another go.

It’s usually at this point that I give up and put the glass down once and for all. Usually I’m going through this process with my friend Jasmine around. She is a self-professed sour-lover, so I often push my glass over to her when I’ve given up.

Here’s what Jasmine said when I asked her why she loves sours:

Sour beers combine the “sit on the patio and chill” vibe of beer without the the heaviness that most fuller flavour beer. They’re not cloyingly sweet like mix drinks or overwhelmingly bitter like so many beers. I find their tartness refreshing, and they do wonders paired with greasy or spicy food. And they’re far more flavorful than light beer but just as easy drinking.

The thing I find most amusing about this is that it sounds like the parts I hate most about sour beers are the parts Jasmine likes best. Go figure!

The many types of sour

You’d think there would be only one kind of beer for me to avoid. But no! You’d be wrong. There are so many kind of beer out there, all sour and gross-tasting and making me keep my wits about me when shopping for a new brew.

But maybe your palate is different. Maybe you’ll like them! Here are some kinds of sours that you might want to give a whirl.

  • Lambic – A Belgian-style beer that often uses aged hops in addition to brettanomyces, giving it a more sharply acidic flavour.
  • Gose – A German-style beer that has a lemony kind of sourness along with an herbal quality. Goses are often the mildest kind of sour beer (and often the deepest into the world of sours as I can go).
  • Berliner Weisse – A German-style wheat beer (obvs), usually low in alcohol and with a yogurt-y kind of sourness.
  • Sour Ale – Sometimes the beermaker is kind and puts the word ‘sour’ right on the label. These beers are usually brewed in an American style, and are usually quite sour. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Sigh. I wish I could love sour beers. I’m missing out on so many good ones.


Have you tried a sour beer? What did you think?


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