Things are getting really sour in the craft beer world, with more and more breweries are cranking out goses, Berliner weisses, and all kinds of wild yeast-driven ales. This is a departure from the bitterness-focused dawn of the American craft beer era, and the bitterness-obsessed years that followed — full of double and triple IPAs, hopped to high hell. But though beer geeks have proven themselves particularly wary of change, the popularity of sour beers this summer is worth celebrating; if for nothing else than to clear the palate after years of hoppy-ness.
“’Sour beer’ is a term used to describe a number of beer styles that, due to a high level of acidity in the finished brew, strike the palate as being tart or sour,” says Bill Covaleski, founder and brewmaster at Victory Brewing. “The Brewers Association’s Great American Beer Festival recognizes ‘American-style sour ale’ as a style in which lactic, acetic and other organic acids are prominent.”
Those relatively loose criteria make sour beer a very broad designation — like “ale” or “lager” — with the common sub-categories being sour blonde or golden sour, dark sour, and red sour. Classic styles include lambic, Berliner weisse, gose and Flanders red ale. They’re characterized by an acidic flavor profile, with a low pH, usually between 3.0 (very sour) to 3.6 (mildly tart).