WHAT IS A SOUR BEER
Born and raised raw and wild, Sour Ales are one of the oldest beer typologies in existence. Nowadays, they are vastly unknown to the public, yet they are getting their fair share of popularity recently.
Sour beers are normally the fruit of spontaneous yeast fermentation: The freshly brewed beer, before filling the wooden casks, is cooled down for an entire night in big /Coolship/ casks. This is typically done in the attic of the brewery. Yeasts and bacteria naturally present in the attic’s air are let to infuse in the beer to give birth to a secondary fermentation.
This archetype of this beer style is produced in Belgium, at the shores of river Seine reaching from Bruxelles all the way down South to Pajottenland. Exclusively produced in winter months, this quintessential sour beer is called /Lambic/
Other Sour Beers may also be acidified directly in the kettle, with the acidification produced by selected strains of yeasts and bacteria. Therefore, the risky art of knowing how to spontaneously (re-)ferment a sour beer is not the only style of Sour Beer in existence.
In fact, especially in the last decade, a large variety of natural yeast strains have been isolated with modern technology. Reproducing them in a way to most resemble the undomesticated ferments has resulted in a more authentic Sour Beer taste even for the /kettle soured/ beers inoculated with yeasts or bacteria.
WE KNOW STYLE BY STYLE
Lambic is the mother of Sour Beers. It is produced with barley malt and unsalted wheat as well as bitter-leaning old hops (with old we mean two or three years of age, resulting in a loss of hops-typical aromas).
Ageing occurs in barrels, for a period ranging from one year to three years long. Lambic aged for one year has a mild acidity, with an aroma profile of hints of wood, elegant carbonation and a soft character, which in the bottle continues to evolve into a more acidic profile and complexity of aroma.
With further aging time, Lambic loses its carbonations and the aromatic profile shows important changes. After three years, on the nose it will present hints of horse saddle, sweaty leather, animal and stable.
Although spontaneously fermented beers are a Belgian tradition, in recent years, productions of similar beers have developed all over the world with aromas and sensations that recall different terroirs. These beers presented different aroma profiles dependent on the place of production and are not easily classifiable.
However, there is always a notable presence acidity with more or less pronounced animal scents. The Lambic beer type includes as well beers which make use of certain fruits such as elderberry, mulberry, cherries, raspberries, peaches and other fruits or flowers
Gueuze is a blend of several Lambic beers of different vintages refermented in the bottle. This beer the is very different from producer to producer since the hand of the assembler has a great influence on the aroma of the finished product. Unlike lambic, it is also offered by assemblers who do not produce any beer themselves. Affineurs buy finished Lambic to then continue their refinement through ageing and assembling. The aroma profile is very complex and varies from woody notes to hints of hay, from ripe fruit to earthy notes, from citrusy-fresh to animal notes.
The Kriek beer type is based on sour cherries which are added to Lambic. Traditionally, around 20 to 30 kg of Griottes cherries (an local variety presents north east from Bruxelles) are used for each 100l of Lambic. The cherries are added to the wooden barrel before filling it up with Lambic and left to macerate for multiple weeks. In this beer type, the fruity notes take overhand: red fruits like raspberries and maraschino or amarena cherries play with floral and aromatic notes of rose, vanilla e hazelnut on a base of the typical lambic aroma profile..
The Framboise beer type uses the same maceration procedure as Kriek, with the difference that the added raspberries are typically frozen for better extraction. Framboise presents a drier aspect on the palate as opposed to Kriek, characterised by a more aggressive acidity in comparison to cherries. On the bouquet, the raspberry is easily identified and accompanied by the typical lambic and animal notes. On top of those two fruity beer types, in the Pajotteland region a variety of Lambics are produced with the same method — apricot, grape, grape must and many other varieties of fruits are used in beer making .
The Faro beer type is made by adding a mixture of sugar (typically rock sugar) and water to the lambic. Traditionally, this procedure was done directly at the bar. The base for this Sour Beer was the Märzen Lager beer type, which corresponds to a Lambic with a plato degree inferior to 6 ° cut with older Lambic (aged for at least 3 years in cask). Nowadays, many Lambic producers offer a Faro made directly at the brewery, and it is harder to find it ready made at the bar.
In this beer, the aromatic profile is founded on contrast: sweet and sour at the same time. The sugary aspect can even be perceived on the nose, followed by a sharp, lambic-tpyical acidic counter action that creates the unique taste of this beer.
In contrast to Lambic, the Gose beer type is not strictly connected to the terroir of production; it is produced all over the world giving a product similar to the original tradition.
The Gose shares a name with the city of Goslar, in lower Saxony, where the local river is the namesake for this region and beer style. The true origins are in the city of Lipsia, at two hundred kilometres of distance from Goslar.
The Gose beer type is produced with barely malt, wheat, salt, coriander, yeast and lactic acid bacteria. These ingredients give the beer a citric acidity with a sapid-salty note. Oftentimes, hints of coriander can still be perceived, connecting it to its origins of production.
The German capital’s own Sour Beer is characterised by a low degree of alcohol and a potent citric acidity owed to the lactic acid bacteria used. They are often served with a syrup of either raspberry or woodruff to balance the acidity. Nowadays, also smoked version of Berliner Weisse can be found, as well as those with added fruit, again here typically the raspberry, whose taste harmoniously matches this beer type.
Oud Bruin e Flemish Red
These two beer styles can be collected into one, as they are typical Flemish beers both derived from a blend of young and aged beers. Their principle difference is presented by the type of maturation which they undergo: Oud Bruin is aged in stainless steel while Flemish Red ages in wooden casks.
This beer style is characterised by a sweet acidity both in bouquet as well as on the palate, which derive mainly from the non fermented sugars from the production, especially in the Flemish Red.
The Farmhouse Saison beer type is born between France and Belgium, historically produced with the Lambic-typical production method of Coolship. It presents traits of mixed fermentation that results both from yeasts presents in the air as well as selected yeasts from the fermentation, which sometimes is done directly in the cask. The larger part of modern breweries avoids the risk of coolship inoculation by isolating air-born yeasts present at the brewery and inoculating the wort in this way.
Farmhouse Season is a catch-all for different kinds of beer, without direct reference to the /Saison/ beer type, as it is used on other kinds of beer as well.