Guide to craft beers

Sour Beers: what are Sour Ales?

Written by EFW Staff

The success of sour beers

We have already talked about the Berliner Weisse, the characteristic Berliner sour beer, symbol of the German capital. Now, we are going to talk generally about of the Sour Ales family. Sour beers made a comeback, in Italy as well.

They made a comeback because this type of beer isn’t new, at all, we are talking about the most ancient beers. Sour beers, in fact, are beers which really come closer to the fermented and alcoholic drinks produced in ancient times, when only wild yeasts and bacteria were used (no cultivated and selected yeasts). The sourness was developed thanks to the spontaneous fermentation which occurs in clay containers or wood barrels, responsible themselves to enhance the proliferation of bacteria that activate the fermentation.

Nowadays, many sour beers are produced in clay containers or wood barrels, in Italy there is even a brewery that uses ancient amphoras made of terracotta to make the beer fermented, called Etrusca, in this way it is enriched with fragrances of honey, red fruit and mineral marks.

The container plays an important role on the final taste of the beer, on the sourness, on fragrances and marks.


Lambic: the queen of sour beers

The sour beer par excellence is the Lambic, still produced with a spontaneous fermentation, thus without the introduction of yeasts, but taking advantage of the microorganisms naturally living in the air. The taste of this beer, produced exclusively in the Payottenland region in Belgium, is unique thanks to the brettanomyces, lactobacillus yeasts and other microorganisms. The result is a sour beer, rich in organoleptic shades that give many surprises once tasted. In addition to the Belgian Lambic, also in United States the sour beer, produced with “wild” yeasts, have had a reasonable success; these beers, characterized by a pungent flavour, are defined as wild beer for their wild flavour.


Sour beers and the maturation in kegs

Sour ales require a long fermentation and the final result is strictly connected to the ability of the brew master. The material of the fermenter plays an important role on the final taste of the beer and on the sourness; the keg or the terracotta vases are generally more used because they are characterized by natural bacteria, which proliferate and start the spontaneous fermentation, giving to the beers a unique sour shade.


How to taste sour beers

Lambic, Wild Beer and the others don’t like to everyone because of their marked sourness and the possible milk fragrance that doesn’t always satisfy all the palates. But don’t be scared by the sour fragrances, actually this freshness that wash the palate make them perfect to be paired with fat foods like cheeses, fried food and snacks. In addition its fruity and spicy notes well matched with aged cheeses and blue cheeses. Traditionally the Lambic and Sour Ales are tasted with pork meat or fish, but also with the typical “insalata di rinforzo” (reinforced salad). The absence of bitter flavours and few fragrances make them perfect to be paired with food, usually difficult to do, for somebody, with the traditional beers!


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EFW Staff