Beer 101: Sour Beer


Amongst beer nerds (like me), it’s currently one of the hottest beer trends. 

Sour beer. 

Yes, you heard me right. Sour beer. 

It’s a style of beer that’s still evolving and changing. There was  a time where basically all beer was sour to some degree. They couldn’t help it. The technology to keep beer from going sour basically didn’t exist at the time.

There were some breweries in Belgian doing it on purpose, sort of, dating back to the 1900s. They came about it naturally with brewing techniques that would quickly get you shut down in today’s day and age. The style continues to exist there today, but thankfully how it’s made has changed. 

Eventually, processes and technology (mostly refrigeration) improved and the natural, and unintended sourness went away. 

Then…it came back but on purpose and are we ever thankful. 

So, how do brewers make beer sour? Well there’s a few different ways. The most common way to sour beer is to unleash some bacterias and/or wild yeasts with long fancy names into the beer. (If you really need to know, they’re called lactobaciluus, brettanomyces and pediococcus. Try and spell those after a few pops.) 

Another way to sour beer is to add fruit during the aging process to create a secondary fermentation. 

Because of the nature of the ingredients brewers are working with, sour beers can be very different from batch-to-batch and take time to be made. 

The most poplar sour beer styles you’ll see around here are Flanders red ale, gose and kettle sour. 

Flanders’ are fermented with the usual kinds of yeast then left to mature in oak barrels. A gose comes from Germany (because of course) and is often balanced out with salty flavours. It’s soured by lactic acid. 

A kettle sour is a relatively new souring technique. As the name implies, the beer is soured in the kettle itself rather than being aged in a barrel or something. It’s soured with most of the same kinds of things that other sours are soured with but often, brewers use something as simple as store bought yogurt to get the process going. 

Here’s the really cool part, Saskatchewan brewers are making some really amazing sour beers. 

Rebellion has a bottled Flanders Sour that won a Bronze at the World Beer Cup. 

Every summer, Nokomis releases their kettle sour and it’s a huge success. This year marks the first time they’ve canned their summer kettle sour. It’s a little lighter on the sourness this year and offers up a bit of a citrusy kick. 

Then there’s Pile O’ Bones. They’re probably the kings of sour beer, at least in Southern Saskatchewan. Cranberry Sour is a part of their four core beers that are now available in cans along with the White IPA, Session Ale and Red Ale. The tart of the cranberry works well with the natural sourness of the kettle sour for a refreshing sip that is well balanced.  

Now that you know a little more about sour beers, come give one a try. You might be surprised at what you might like. 

Joel Gasson