While the most visible sour beer styles are best suited to warm-weather drinking, it’s hard to top a tart, robust, warming winter-style sour beer during the frigid months. From May ’til September, gose — with its sweet-meets-briny flavor profile — is the name of the game. But from October until the first spring thaw, we drink Flanders brown ales, wild ales, Berliner weisses, lambics, and oud bruins.
If you aren’t familiar with sour beers, winter is a surprisingly good time to get acquainted with this tart, tangy, wine-like branch of the beer family tree. They’re made using various microflora — think lactobacillus bacteria, pediococcus bacteria, and Brettanomyces. While it sounds odd (you eat yogurt, don’t you?), each bacterium creates a different, unique flavor profile for the finished beer.
Here are the wintry sour beers we’re loving as fall 2020 waves goodbye and the true cold season sets in.
Funkwerks Oud Bruin
This gold medal winner at the World Beer Cup is a barrel-aged Belgian-style sour ale. Oud Bruin is a traditional Flemish-style sour ale made for centuries. Funkwerks’ take on the classic style is made annually and matured in oak barrels.
The result of a fermentation using Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and a few other bacterium, combined with barrel aging, creates a unique brew with hints of sour cherries, dried fruits, and rich, dark chocolate.
New Belgium La Folie
If you’ve been paying attention to sour beer in the US for the last decade, you’re probably aware of the OG: La Folie. New Belgium’s Flanders sour brown ale is matured in French oak Foeders that are filled with the “oldest continuous souring culture” in the country.
The result of aging and fermenting with their proprietary culture is a beer that can be enjoyed by both wine and beer drinkers alike. It’s perfectly tart and sour with hints of sour apples, dried cherries, and rich, robust oak flavor.
The Lost Abbey Cuvee De Tomme
This brown ale is made using fermentable sugars that include malted barley, candy sugar, sour cherries, and raisins. After it’s fermented, it’s aged in bourbon barrels for at least a year with more sour cherries and Brettanomyces.
Aging in oak casks gives this special brew a ton of unique flavors. These include charred oak itself, as well as creamy vanilla, rich caramelized sugar, wine-like tannins, tart cherries, and a subtle, tangy sour note.
Rodenbach Grand Cru
No sour beer list is complete without the addition of Rodenbach. Sure, you can grab a bottle or can of the classic Rodenbach, but why not up your game with Rodenbach Grand Cru. This Flanders-style red ale is brewed the barley malt and flour hops before being aged in oak barrels for two full years.
This is a beer for people who not only enjoy beer, but also wine. It’s very sour, but still, thirst-quenching, and the tart flavor lingers for a long time. Flavors of charred oak, red wine, lactic acid, and dried cherries are prevalent.
Wicked Weed Silencio
This is a truly unique beer. It’s described as a bourbon-barrel-aged black sour ale. This black sour ale is aged in Kentucky-made bourbon casks with Madagascar vanilla beans and El Silencio coffee.
The result is both tart and rich with hints of raspberries, sour cherries. But it evolves into a darker, more robust brew with hints of bitter espresso and oaky sweetness at the end.
Firestone Walker Big Mood
Firestone Walker is well-known for its forays into the world of sour beers. One of the best in recent years is Big Mood. Made in collaboration with Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, this sour beer was made using the fellow brewery’s yeast to ferment 2,000 pounds of Blenheim apricots and white wine grapes.
It was aged in oak barrels for 18 to 36 months before being blended with a barrel-aged wine hybrid.
This wild ale is filled with tart, subtly sour fruit flavors like stone fruits, dried apricots, tropical fruits, and just might be the perfect way to forget about the cold weather outside. It’s like a Bellini for people who’d rather drink beer.
Grimm Ales Color Field
This wild farmhouse ale is brewed using chamomile, rose hips, and hibiscus and made using mixed culture fermentation. It’s dry-hopped to give the sour, tangy flavors a nice kick of floral, bitter hops.
This multi-dimensional, unfiltered sour ale is hazy, pink in color, and starts with tart citrus flavors that move into funky yeast and nice, lactic acidity. The hops add a nice, piney, floral flavor that makes this one of the most well-rounded sour beers to drink this winter.
Springdale Not Stirred: Sangria
Everyone likes brunch, right?
But in the middle of a pandemic going out to eat avocado toast at 11 am just doesn’t seem right. This just might be the perfect beer for brunch at home. It’s a golden ale that was fermented using sweet Moscato grape juice in wine casks before being matured on apple, apricot, and peat juice for 18 months.
It’s a beer, but it really does taste like brunch in a bottle. And by brunch, we mean mimosas, not sangria. It’s crisp, tangy, and filled with hints of sour apple, tart pear, and just a hint of yeast.