Beer Wiki

One of the oldest types of beer in the world, sour beers are making a massive comeback. Their unique tart flavor and dryness appeal to craft beer aficionados and novice drinkers alike. Sour beers offer infinite possibilities when it comes to style and taste. Allowing the home brewer to experiment with different flavors and fruit pairings until something utterly unique and delicious is created. So, let's go over exactly what makes sour beer so sour and the best flavorings for it.

Why Are They Sour?[]

Most mass-produced beers are pasteurized and made with artificial yeast strains grown in a lab. Sour beer undergoes an entirely different and more organic process. Brewers intentionally expose the beer to bacteria and wild yeast during the fermentation stage. They do this by either allowing the beer to sit in the open air, adding ingredients that already contain certain microorganisms, or reusing brewing equipment that hasn’t been washed.

The beer is made sour by the wild yeast and certain strains of bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. These are the same microorganisms that give yogurt its tart flavor. The bacteria in sour beer has similar benefits to probiotics which are good for helping with digestion, gut health, and improving mental health and immunity. The bacteria eats the natural sugar in the beer leaving behind lactic acid, which is what gives the beer its sour and acidic flavor.

The wild yeast and different bacteria make for unpredictable and exciting results. Sours can range from funky, fruit-forward flavors to mouthwateringly tart and bone dry.

The Benefits of Sour Beer[]

When consumed in moderation, sour beer actually has several health benefits. Compared to other beers, sours are lower in alcohol, sugar, and carbs. They also contain more protein and the good probiotics mentioned above. Research has shown that they can help with gut health and digestion as well as promote weight loss.

Being lower in alcohol and higher in acidity makes it easier for the liver to process and equals fewer calories. Sours are also a natural way to help fight insomnia because most beers have more sugar which actually energizes the body, keeping it awake.

Many sour beers contain fruit such as raspberries, cherries, blueberries, and oranges which are all packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants have been proven to help fight cancer and improve brain health.

The Long History & Rich Traditions of Sour Beer[]

Originally all beers were made in the sour style. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that breweries started to figure out how to mass-produce one style of beer consistently. Once they realized that they could achieve the same results every time, it was no longer economical to continue brewing a beer that was difficult, unpredictable, and time-consuming to make.

However, in countries like Belgium and Germany, with long-standing traditions of beer being brewed by monks in monasteries, sour beer continued to be made and loved. With the rise in popularity of craft beer in America, sour beers are starting to make a comeback as more and more brewers are captivated by its distinct flavors and creative potential.

The Many Styles of Sour Beer[]

Monks in Europe have been brewing sours since the Middle Ages. Needless to say, they’ve had time to perfect their recipes, and to this day, some of the best sour beers are still brewed using those same-time-honored methods. While there are countless styles, the most long-standing ones are

  • Lambic: Made with raspberries and cherries, this tart Belgian wheat beer is brewed in the winter and must be aged for a year or longer. The monks use a spontaneous fermentation process where the beer is exposed to the cool winter air attracting different wild yeast strains and microorganisms.
  • Flanders: Another popular Belgian sour that balances its high acidity with sweeter fruits and hints of vanilla. Flanders are allowed to ferment in large wooden vats that are never washed, which exposes them to the yeast and bacteria of the previous batches.
  • Berliner Weisse: A subtle brightness and citrus flavor. This German wheat beer has less alcohol and more carbonation than other sour beers making it the perfect lemony treat on a hot summer’s day.
  • Gose: Another German sour, Gose is particularly unique because it’s flavored with sea salt and coriander seeds, which produces a mildly sweet herbaceous flavor that’s balanced by the sour finish. This style is also popular in America.
  • American Wild Ales: Leave it to the Americans to break with tradition and brew sours in styles never seen before. These wild ales contain two different types of yeast that are more commonly used to create hoppy ales before mixing them with various fruits and other flavors. No two Wild Ales are alike.

Best Fruit Pairings for Sour Beer[]

Technically, any fruit and herb can be used to flavor sour beer. The best pairings, however,  create a fine balance between the fruit’s sweetness and the beer's natural bitterness and acidity. This is where homebrewers can really start to have some fun experimenting.

When sourcing real fruit purees for homebrewing, it’s important to make sure that what you’re buying contains 100% real fruit with no additives or preservatives. You don’t want any artificial ingredients affecting the final outcome of your sour beer.

Citrus Fruit[]

Grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and lime all pair wonderfully with sour beers. They’re also a great way to add a bit of Vitamin C to your brew. Oranges are sweeter, so they act as a good counterpoint to the acidity in sour beer. Grapefruit adds a floral note and a touch of bitterness, while lemon and lime give that intense mouth-puckering effect.

Stone Fruit[]

Peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots walk that beautiful line between summer ripe sweetness and super tangy tartness. The fragrant aroma of fresh stone fruit also helps to soften the sometimes barnyard smell of certain wild yeast strains.


We already know that Lambics are famous for their tart raspberry flavor, but strawberries, blackberries, and even blueberries make excellent additions to sour beer as well. When it comes to berries, you want to make sure your fruit puree is super ripe. Otherwise, the end results could be almost too tart and bitter.


It’s a proven fact that grapes ferment beautifully and are full of robust flavors. Grapes can add either sweetness or a drying tannin-like effect to your sour beer, depending on your desired results. Because they come in so many different types and with different levels of sweetness, you’ll have to experiment with multiple varieties before settling on a favorite.

Tropical Fruit[]

There are so many different tropical fruits that pair fabulously with sour beer. Passion fruit is an excellent example of something exotic that provides a slightly sweet tang while not adding too much sugar. Pineapples and mangoes also do a great job of adding sweetness without overpowering the unique flavors of the wild yeast. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to making your own sours.

What’s Not to Love?[]

With all of their added health benefits and amazingly refreshing flavors, it’s no wonder sour beers are becoming more and more popular every day. Whether you’re a budding home brewer or craft beer aficionado, sour beers need to be moved to the top of your must-try list. So raise a glass and pucker up!