What makes a Sour a sour?
Sour yeast strains.
Sour and wild are terms that are used interchangeably in the industry but there is a distinction.
Sour beers happen when acidifying bacteria (Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus) in conjunction with wild or commercial yeast is introduced to the fermenting beer.
Wild is a term used to describe any beer that displays characteristics of funk and earthy. These characteristics are found in the Brettanomyces (Brett) yeast strains.
Sour/Wild beers can range from anything to a light, golden ale to a strong, dark stout.
Often these beers may get all three yeast strains to build a complexity of funky, sour characteristics.
Sour beer came from not having modern sanitation. The “sour” characteristics came from the warm weather which would acidify the bacteria and wild yeast.
Originally, these sour characteristics were considered a flavor fault.
‘Old World’ styles were often produced by aging the beer in wooden barrels. This is to control the acidity levels (sour) and produce an agreeable flavor.
Classic Old World Styles include German Berliner Weisse, Belgian Oud Bruin, Flanders Red, and Lambics.
New World styles are beers have no style guidelines, an anything-goes-approach, they are pushing the boundaries, blended, and many are aged in wine or bourbon barrels.
Varieties of Sours:
American Wild Ale
Flanders Red Ale
Sour fruit beers can cut through the richness of braised meats.
Stinky cheeses work best with Brettanomyces beers.
Dark Sours paired with brie and fig jam can play off the dark malts and dried fruit components if present.
Flanders Red Ale plays down the intensity of pickled herring.
Fruit Lambics work well with creamy or chocolate desserts.
Gueuze is a classic match with Belgian mussels.
Berliner Weisse pairs naturally with a lemony white fish.