A Guide to Sour Beer for Wine Lovers

If you love wine, you'll love these sour beer suggestions from our resident beer expert

 


As the resident beer writer here at Snooth, I am aware that most of you dear readers are wine lovers. I also know (thanks to Nielsen) that about 72 percent of you enjoy a craft beer here and there.

For those of you who haven’t really ventured into the world of delicious beer, I’d like to introduce you to what I call “gateway” beer: sours.

Sours are commonly made with wild yeasts and are often products of spontaneous fermentation. Styles that fall into this pretty broad category include lambic, gueuze and Flanders red ales – mostly Belgian styles. The brewing process is tricky but when done right it can result in an ale as complex as many wines. Keep in mind, the name rings true; sours are tart but they’re also really good.

In preparation for this guide, I tasted several sours. I’m sharing the ones I think you might like best. Branch out and find your own favorites too, and let me know about them!

Rodenbach Original

Since sour ales began as a mostly Belgian niche brew, I thought it fitting to try a Rodenbach. This brewery, which began as a family-owned operation in Belgium (it’s now owned by the Palm Breweries company), specializes in barrel-aged sour beers.

The Rodenbach Original is a good place to start. The finished product is a combination of ale aged for 2 years in barrels (25 percent) and “young” ale, or freshly brewed ale (75 percent).

The tartness and even a bit of vinegar start right in the aroma. The flavor combines cherry, raisin and plum and a good shot of fig comes with the finish. It’s a nice introduction to sour ales.

Monk’s Café Flemish Red Ale

Some of you might be familiar with the famed Monk’s Café in Philadelphia, Pa. This ale actually hails from Belgium but Brouwerij Van Steenberge makes it specifically for that Philly restaurant.

Even though it comes from Ghent, Belgium, it is a pretty tame selection as sours go. The aroma is smoky and very mild and the flavor features raisins, plums, dates and a light sour tone. It’s sweet without being too tart and Monk’s even describes it as a palate cleanser.

You can get this ale in stores, but I highly recommend taking a jaunt to the café itself and pairing this brew with the pomme frites.

Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait

No, not Boones. This is Brouwerij Boon, owned by Frank Boon himself and located near Brussels, Belgium. It specializes in traditional Belgian styles like lambic and geuze.

Their Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait is very tart. It’s something you can sense even in the nose. The tartness is complemented by flavors of white fruit, grapefruit and a touch of pear.

This is an intense brew, so it might be best to try this with a friend. You might want to have some salty food on hand to offset the inevitable sour faces.

Calabaza Blanca Artisan White Ale

Jolly Pumpkin, the Michigan brewery responsible for this brew, is known for its farmhouse-style ales often made with wild yeast. The brewery adopted the Belgian sour and made it its own. The Calabaza is no exception.

Aged in oak casks, the ale is a nice, mild brew. The aroma features a prominent ginger note as well as a touch of lemon. Citrus and lemongrass complement a very mild sour.

I recommend enjoying this refreshing yet only slightly sour brew outdoors. It’s a nice drink for a summer day.

The Woods

As you’ve seen, several U.S. breweries have attempted sours. This rarely found gem that comes from Cisco Brewers in Massachusetts is a fine example of the sour that Belgians have perfected over the years.

Lemon and ginger aromas meet flavors of tart plum, cherry and a touch of brown sugar. It’s a nice blend that doesn’t cause any sour faces at all. Savor this one – enjoy it slowly like you would if you were sitting on a dock in Nantucket.

Juliet

Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. has been brewing since the late 1980s. Last year, Anheuser-Busch purchased the remaining majority of the brewery. Even before that, they initiated an impressive vintage line of beers that features several Belgian styles, including this sour beer named Juliet.

The ale is aged in wine barrels which might give it that extra appeal for a wine drinker. While sour, the brew is as refreshing as iced tea. In fact, the aromas remind me of an Arnold Palmer with a strong combination of lemon and herbs. The flavor isn’t far off from that. I tasted herbs and lemony sourness along with some hints of cherry and blueberry.

Goose Island may no longer be a craft brewery by technicality, but they still make some very good beers, notably Juliet.

Liefmans Goudenband

Liefmans Oudenaarde is a brewery that’s been around since the late 1600s. Duvel now owns it, but it is still brewing the same beers that have been perfected over the last 400-plus years.

This Flanders Oud Bruin ale is an amazing representation of the sour category. The bottle is wrapped in paper – a traditional Belgian brewing practice. It’s kind of like opening a present when you get to drink it. It smells like strawberry candy and tastes like a well-rounded combination of figs and dates, along with a flash of citrus in the finish.

Of all the sours I’ve suggested, this is one that everyone should try. It’s a special treat from Belgium.

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Comments

  • Snooth User: Bud Taste
    1117380 15

    Petrus Aged Pale Ale should be listed as well, not to mention Duchesse de Bourgogne and Vichtenaar.

    Jul 04, 2012 at 1:41 PM


  • Snooth User: cubanazo
    168718 1

    where can I get the sour beers in your article

    Jul 04, 2012 at 3:55 PM


  • Snooth User: steve16046
    Hand of Snooth
    1085122 827

    Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic is my favorite Gueuze. Such a great job of blending of the various lambics. Not saying it has to make 'the list', just one I personally enjoy.

    Jul 04, 2012 at 6:32 PM


  • Snooth User: Jildaz
    476658 163

    I'm very happy to see this. I've been wanting to find out try other sour beers. I'm a big fan of Duchess de Bourgogne. Merci.

    Jul 04, 2012 at 7:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Clare Goggin Sivits
    Hand of Snooth
    1066509 632

    Hi all -- thanks for the comments! Cubanazo, I purchased these beers at a Whole Foods in New York City. Unfortunately, I'm not sure where they would be available near you but I certainly encourage you to keep an eye out for them.

    Jul 05, 2012 at 11:18 AM


  • Snooth User: ecs2014
    520845 30

    To clarify, the Woods by Cisco is a series. Monomoy Kriek is only one of several beers that are released throughout the year. My personal favorite is Lady of the Woods, which is usually available in late winter.

    Jul 05, 2012 at 2:18 PM


  • Obviously impossible to cover all the bases in an article like this, but I would like to throw in Cascade Brewing in Portland as one of my favorite sour brewers. They have a wonderful range of barrel-aged beers that when assembled together is beautiful both in range of color and taste.

    Some of these are not for the uninitiated; I remember offering a Duchesse de Bourgogne to an Englishman at dinner and he practically spat it out.

    Jul 06, 2012 at 12:18 PM


  • Nice article and another thumbs up for Cascade out of Oregon. Cheers, Jeff - WHERE THE WILD BEERS ARE

    Jul 09, 2012 at 12:25 AM


  • Snooth User: Leann Dubh
    1121094 9

    Some other breweries that make great sours (some have already been noted): Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Verhaeghe, Cascade, Russian River, Allagash, Panil, etc.

    Jul 23, 2012 at 12:45 AM


  • Snooth User: coltspam
    1327708 34

    fentastic

    Aug 02, 2013 at 11:35 PM


  • Snooth User: Mydietarea
    1328028 33

    Nice article and another thumbs up for Cascade out of Oregon

    Aug 03, 2013 at 1:47 AM


  • Nice article

    Aug 12, 2013 at 11:43 PM


  • Snooth User: CarBuyWhiz
    1332598 26

    wow... it's superb..!!

    Aug 17, 2013 at 2:19 AM


  • superb

    Sep 06, 2013 at 12:56 PM


  • nice

    Sep 11, 2013 at 1:58 AM


  • great

    Sep 24, 2013 at 5:42 AM


  • Cooler

    Oct 09, 2013 at 5:16 AM


  • Snooth User: jamchimps
    1385295 43

    Awesome...!!

    Oct 28, 2013 at 2:05 AM


  • Snooth User: gamysplash
    1487309 35


    Thats wonderful...

    Apr 04, 2014 at 4:51 AM


  • Snooth User: rabbitspot
    1493740 33

    nice

    Apr 19, 2014 at 3:11 AM


  • Snooth User: furiousloo
    1498002 33

    Awesome...!!

    May 01, 2014 at 11:06 PM


  • Some other breweries that make great sours (some have already been noted): Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Verhaeghe, Cascade, Russian River, Allagash, Panil, etc.

    May 08, 2014 at 6:00 AM


  • Snooth User: hoopssnow
    1511940 50

    Its extraordinary :)

    Jun 12, 2014 at 1:40 AM



  • Its fabulous

    Jun 13, 2014 at 12:21 AM


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