If you’re into craft beer, you’ve probably had at least a few sour beers. In the last five years, it seems like almost every brewery in the world has released a sour. Sour beer has been around for centuries, but its recent boom in popularity has infiltrated the beer world much like IPA in the early 2000s.
There are many styles and flavors of sour beer. From Belgian lambic to innovative American interpretations, the world of sour beer is vast and evolving. In this article, we’ll guide you through what to look for in a great sour beer and list our 10 favorites.
- Oude Geuze Cuvee Armand Gaston, 3 Fonteinen
- La Folie, New Belgium Brewing Brewing Co
- Marlene, Schneeeule Brauerei
- Foufoune, Brasserie Cantillon
- Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black Label), Brouwerij Girardin
- L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes
- Juicy, Hill Farmstead
- Beatification, Russian River Brewing Co
- SPON – Méthode Traditionelle, Jester King Brewery
- Fruit Stand, Casey Brewing, and Blending
Oude Geuze Cuvee Armand Gaston, 3 Fonteinen
3 Fonteinen is a lambic producer and blender from Pajottenland. They’re famous for their complex and funky beer. Their beers are some of the most sought-after in the craft beer world.
Cuvee Armand Gaston pours a bright orangey-golden with a slight haze. The lively carbonation pushes a puffy foam above the glass. Acidic and funky, 3 Fonteinen has crafted the quintessential gueuze. It’s an amazing tribute to the brewery’s original founder Gaston Debelder, and his son, now-retired master blender, Armand.
La Folie, New Belgium Brewing Brewing Co
Most people know Colorado’s NB Brewing for Fat Tire, an amber ale. Where they shine, though, is in their sour beer program. In 2000, they started brewing Belgian-style sour beers aged in wood barrels.
Available year-round, La Folie is the beer that started their funky line-up. Fermented and aged in foeders , La Folie is a Flemish Brown. Notes of tart green apple, vanilla, and lightly toasted bread make this beer complex and tasty. This Colorado brew isn’t just great for an American sour, it’s probably the best Flemish-style sour ale in the world.
Marlene, Schneeeule Brauerei
Recently, Schneeeule Brauerei (Snowy Owl Brewery) has started re-creating the traditional Berliner Weisse, a style that almost died with the rise of lagers.
Marlene is brewed with 100% wheat and fermented with a blend of Brettanomyces and lactobacillus. This 3% ABV, the glowing pale brew is slightly acidic with a subdued funkiness from the Brettanomyces. A refreshing beer for a hot summer’s day which pays tribute to the tradition of German brewing.
Foufoune, Brasserie Cantillon
If you’re a craft beer drinker, chances are you’ve heard of Cantillon. They’re considered the best sour beer brewery in the world. The small Brussels brewery has been family owned and operated since 1900. If you can get your hands on any bottles of Cantillon, don’t hesitate. They’re all amazing in their own way. Our favorite is Foufoune.
Foufoune is a lambic beer blended with fresh apricots. The fruit and lambic are left to ferment for about 5 weeks before bottling. The smooth mouthfeel balances an assertive acidity allowing the fresh apricot flavor to shine through. Layers of complex funk, acidity, and subtle malt coat the mouth. The snappy carbonation helps wash it down.
Foufoune challenges the concept of fruit beer. It serves as an incredible inspiration for many sour brewers worldwide.
Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black Label), Brouwerij Girardin
Black Label Gueuze Girardin is an often overlooked example of an outstanding lambic. Young, this full-bodied gueuze offers lightly charred oakiness and a soft, pleasant funk. With some age, the funkiness starts to shine through giving a more perceived dryness.
Girardin also makes a filtered gueuze known as White Label. It’s fine, but lambic lovers should seek out the unfiltered Black Label version for a more traditional product.
L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes
Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes, or BFM, is a small, innovative Swiss brewery specializing in sour and wild beers. Operating since 1997, they’ve received worldwide acclaim for their beers.
L’Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is an 11% ABV dark ale that spends a year or two aging in wine and spirit barrels. The result: a very sour, funky brew that threads the needle between beer and wine. Owner and brewer Jérôme Rebetez is a trained oenologist so we can imagine this has influenced this beer’s unique characteristics.
Juicy, Hill Farmstead
Sour, funky, hoppy, complex – Juicy by Hill Farmstead ticks many boxes. Starting with a base of Saison, Juicy spends 10 months of conditioning in wine barrels with Hill Farmstead’s signature house culture. Before packaging, the beer is dry-hopped with the finest New Zealand hops. In a perfect symbiotic relationship, the yeast, bacteria, hops, and oak work together to form a product even bigger than the sum of its parts.
Juicy is a very unique sour beer. Hill Farmstead brings to life a truly amazing sour ale that is refreshing, thought-provoking and – yes – juicy.
Beatification, Russian River Brewing Co
At Russian River, Vinnie Cilurzo has been using a coolship for spontaneous fermentation since 2012. Considered one of the best American sour breweries, Russian River produces a very solid lineup of Belgian-inspired wild ales.
True to its name, Beatification is a saintly libation. As Russian River’s ode to Belgian lambic, this beer is 100% spontaneously fermented and aged in oak wine barrels for several months.
Beatification is a sour golden ale with an assertive funkiness that balances well with the up-front sourness. Like most Russian River beers, the mouthfeel is spot on. This helps make Beatification refreshing and highly drinkable.
SPON – Méthode Traditionelle, Jester King Brewery
Jester King is a farmhouse brewery from just outside Austin, Texas. Yeast and alternative fermentation has always been their claim to fame. They make some of the best Belgian-style beer brewed in the U.S., focusing on rustic flavors, funk, and acidity.
Originally called Méthode Gueuze, the name of the beer changed to Méthode Traditionelle. This came after consultation with a group of Belgian lambic producers. The new name honors the age-old tradition of lambic brewing without claiming to be a Belgian product.
SPON blends 1, 2, and 3-year-old 100% spontaneously fermented and barrel-aged beer. The result is the closest to traditional gueuze outside of Belgium. Golden in color, effervescent, balanced, sour, and funky, SPON is a perfect homage to Belgian lambic brewing.
Fruit Stand, Casey Brewing, and Blending
Casey Brewing and Blending specialize in sour and wild beer with big fruit flavor. Using almost all local, Colorado ingredients, Casey ferments only in vintage oak barrels. They’ve made a name for themselves with their impressive line-up of fruited sours.
Casey only uses whole fruit in their beers – no flavorings, purees, or frozen fruit. Fruit Stand comes in many variants, Cherry and Apricot to name a few. All of them are outstanding but the cherry version is a world-class representation of sour fruit beer.
Pouring a hazy pink-red with a fleeting head, the first scents are intense blackberry. The flavor is funky, sour, and packed with a fresh blackberry. The base beer provides a malty sweetness and subtle bitterness. Loads of fresh blackberry flavor jump out of the glass.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some other sour beers I should try?
There are too many to list them all but here are a few more of our favorites:
- Jester King SPON – Lots of variants but we love the cherry version
- Black Project Chemtrail – Passion Fruit Wild Ale packed with flavor
- Crooked Stave Petit Sour Blueberry – A great sour from Denver
- Perennial Artisan Ales Raspberry Funky Wit – A beautiful raspberry sour
- Rodenbach – A very classic sour ale
Can I age sour beer?
Most sour beers can be aged and flavors will evolve and develop over time. The best beers for aging are unpasteurized bottle-conditioned sour beers. Kettle-soured beers are not ideal candidates for aging as there are no live bacteria in the bottle.
Over time, the yeast and bacteria in the beer will continue fermenting. This leads to complex funkiness, sourness, and often higher carbonation. Most sour beer can easily be aged for 1 to 2 years. Belgian lambic beers, like gueuze, can be aged for 5 or 10 years. Good luck staying away from your bottle collection for that long!
Is sour beer healthier?
Most sour beers have live yeast and bacteria inside the bottle. This means saccharomyces (brewers yeast), lactobacillus, Brettanomyces, and pediococcus. Many believe these bacterias are good for the gut much like other probiotic drinks or food.
Of course, sour beer does contain alcohol so you should always drink it in moderation.