What is a Sour Beer? » (History, Ingredients & How it is made!)

When you start your journey to become a master brewer, you stumble upon different types of beer.

One of those could be the “Sour beer”

What is sour ale?
Sour ale is a type of beer that is intentionally made to have a sour or tart taste. Sour beer is crafted by using wild bacteria and a longer fermenting process often involving fruit. It is known for being an older version of beer that is harder to craft and produce than normal beers.

Sour Ale is a drink that is interesting and worth looking into a little more deeply.

Let’s talk more about what a sour beer is, how it is made, and why you might choose a sour beer over a different drink.

What is a Sour Beer?

To put it simply, a sour beer is a beer that has been crafted to be more sour and acidic in taste than a normal beer.

It can and is often paired with fruits like cherries, raspberries, and peaches in the fermentation process to offset the sour tones.

Beyond these basic facts, there are a lot of different aspects of this beer that are worth noting, such as the history behind it and the uniqueness of the beer.

Sour beers are one of the oldest forms of liquor.

It has been discovered to have been created and crafted as early as 4,000 B.C.

This early start time was made possible because the process used to create a sour beer is less structured than a modern beer.

– Read also: How many types of beer, a complete list.

As time went on, sour beers actually lost some production and popularity when techniques became available to make beer have a standardized taste.

Yet, there is now a rise in people wanting to make and have a classic sour beer.

Unique about the sour beer

The things that make a sour beer unique are how the beer is produced and the flavors that come from the fermentation process.

A funny fact about sour beer is that it was considered an accident for a while.

Many thought the sour taste was because of inexperienced brewers making mistakes with the standard yeast fermentation process.

Now, only the higher-end breweries will try to create sour beers because the fermentation process and the bacteria involved make it so the bacteria can easily spread to other beers.

If the wild bacteria was to spread to other beers within a brewery, it would lead to a lot of contamination and changes in the taste of the other beers.

This could lead to a lot of problems, so people who brew sour beers need to be cautious in how they brew their sour beers and other forms of alcohol.

The Beer Judge Certification Program has deemed that there are around 10 different categories of sour beers all put under the name of “Wild Specialty Beer”.

Some of these more distinct types of beers include:

  • American Wild Ales
  • Berliner Wiesse
  • East Flaunders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin
  • Gose, Gueuze
  • Lambic
  • West Flaunders Sour Red Ale.

How is a Sour Beer Made?

The process for making a sour beer is pretty complex, depending on the type of sour beer you are trying to craft.

The main thing to keep in mind is that the beer needs different yeasts and bacteria than your normal beer.

» Read also: Can you make alcohol without yeast?

Step #1: Sparging

The first thing to keep in mind when brewing a sour beer is to mash the grain with malt and with water, getting as much sugar out as possible without removing any other important parts of the grain needed to create an alcohol.

This process is known as sparging.

Step #2: add aged hops

Then you will add aged hops.

Hops are the flower of a plant called the Humulus Lupulus plant that contain a yellow substance.

This yellow substance is used to create the flavor and aroma found in beer.

You don’t want to add too many aged hops to the brew because it can mess with the wild bacteria’s growth. (Source)

Step 3: cool and add yeast

After that, you will want to cool your brewed but unfermented beer and add the yeast and bacteria to it.

This is where the unique aspects of sour beer brewing come into play.

You will want to add some of the standard yeast that typical beers need, but you will also want to add three differing bacteria:

  • lactobacillus (lacto)
  • pediococcus (pedio)
  • brettanomyces (brett).

These organisms are used because they eat the sugar found in beer and produce acids, like lactic acid and acetic acid.

Fruits may also be added to ferment because the fruit creates citric acid: These acids are what make the beer sour in taste.

Step #4: wild organisms

Another thing that some people do within this process is leave the beer outside in an open, metal container to allow it to pick up wild organisms and bacteria from the enviroment.

This can heighten the taste of the beer and is a highly recommended process.

Step #5: The waiting for the sour beer

Then, it is simply a waiting game.

You need to put the brew in a wooden cask for a long time to allow it to develop the flavors you are desiring. (Source)

Some sources say that it can take anywhere from 3 months to 18 months. (Source)

» Read also: The easiets types of beer to brew

If you are interested in knowing more about this process, the video below will be a good asset for you!

Why Make Sour Beer Instead of Another Beer?

There are many reasons to give this beer a try!

It is a view into how our ancestors lived and enjoyed life that is getting perfected today.

Breweries are starting to be able to produce sour beer consistently and safely with other types of alcohol.

If you find a flavor you like, you will be able to get it again and again. In the past, every drink was at least a little different than the last. The ultimate reason to try a sour beer is that it is unique.

Unmatched flavor profile

The flavor profile is unmatched in any other form of alcohol, so the only way to know if it is good is to try it yourself.

With all of this in mind, you are now an expert on sour ale. The next time you see one in a liquor section at a store or in your local bar, you will be able to make a smart decision on whether this is a beer for you.

About HomeBrewAdvice

Hello, my name is Simon. Together with a group of writers I write about brewing beer and making wine. We all share a passion for the great things in life, such as making stuff from scratch.

The business of HomeBrewAdvice is to bring you great information, stories and product reviews from brewing at home, and making wine


Have you ever heard of red beer? or red ale? There is some confusion about what...
Have you ever gone out to an Irish pub with a group of friends after a game and...
If you’re familiar with American beer brands, you’ve probably heard...
Have you ever wondered what wheat beer is and what exactly all the fuss is over...
The world has about a dozen broadly classified types of beer, and each of these...
A great way to get your hands on a beverage that is customized especially to...