When Belgian sours first appeared in the U.S. in the 1970s, the beer’s flavor seemed so foreign that it was deemed contaminated and cases were shipped back to Belgium. But palates have since evolved, and the rising popularity of sours means American beer drinkers are increasingly seeking a spectrum of mouth-puckering options. While “sour” doesn’t carry a strict definition, it largely refers to highly acidic brews made with wild yeasts, like Brettanomyces, or inoculated with bacteria, like Lactobacillus. The result is flavorful, food-friendly beers. Here are five to try.
New Belgium and Oud Beersel Transatlantique Kriek A transatlantic partnership between Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing and Belgium’s Oud Beersel is responsible for this ruby-hued kriek. Oud Beersel’s Polish cherry-laced aged lambic is married to New Belgium’s foeder-aged golden ale, yielding this tart, easy-drinking beer that’s perfect for sour beginners. From $13.99, drizly.com
De Brabandere Petrus Aged Pale Ale This wild-fermented Belgian-born firecracker, named by beer legend Michael Jackson, explodes with citrus and pine. Brewed with Saaz hops, this ale spends two years in French oak foeders, emerging lightly golden in the glass with a crisp, bright tartness.
Cascade Brewing Crazy Navel From the sour wizards at Portland’s Cascade Brewing comes this zingy blend of sour wheat and blonde ales, brewed with cara cara and heirloom oranges and matured in oak wine barrels for 14 months. Flush with the aroma of sweet oranges, this beer is juicy but refreshing and light-bodied. $29.99, oaked.net
Brewery Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne Named for the Brussels-born Mary of Burgundy, an early proponent of local brewers, this Flemish ale is rich with fruity flavors of raisin and prune. Tannins absorbed from top-fermentation in oak foeders lightly enhance the beer’s acidity, which is balanced by a delicate sweetness. Its cordovan shade makes this sour a visual treat—perfect to top off a winter evening or incorporate into a holiday spread. $18, craftcity.com
Goose Island Juliet Brettanomyces brings the funk to this wine barrel-aged sour, packed with dark-fruit flavors and woody notes. Inspired by Belgium’s legendary lambic brewer Cantillon, Chicago-based Goose Island’s Juliet is a sumptuous sour that cleanly balances its sour character with bright carbonation. $26.99, holidaywinecellar.com