As craft beers dominated the beer market throughout the early 21st century, sour beers gradually rose in prominence. Sour beer represents a specialized brewing process, introducing acids from bacteria or fruits to the brew.
Some recipes require the bacteria lactobacillus, which appears in products like yogurt and occurs naturally within the human body. Lime, guava, and other tropical fruits feature prominently in sours, as well as berries like blueberry or raspberry.
These wild yeast strains produce a living, evolving drink. Brewers employ precise strategies and timing to introduce the yeasts and acids.
Best Sour Beers
The best sour beers featured on this list provide a wide spectrum of sour beers. From hoppy, sour IPAs to a light German gose, there is a sour for every palate on this list.
Urban Artifact The Gadget
This Cincinnati brewery keeps its many strains of sour beers under control within the former Catholic church where they are based.
Urban Artifact’s The Gadget represents one of the perennial flavors from the brewery, which also rotates seasonal and even fruit seltzer flavors.
This original flavor boasts robust fruit notes, with 1,200 pounds of both blackberries and raspberries added to each 30-barrel batch.
Vanilla beans are also added to the mixture for a flavorful sour beer. Urban Artifact offers strawberry and tropical flavors, as well as larger 187 mL specialty bottles named after dinosaurs.
Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale
SeaQuench Ale takes a more-is-more approach to this sour beer.
Typically sour beers choose between the styles of a Gose, Berliner Weiss, or Kolsch.
However, this Dogfish Head brew combines all three, along with black limes, sea salt, and lime juice. This citrusy sour beer provides the flavor profile of a margarita with significantly less sugar.
Dogfish Head recommends pairing SeaQuench Ale with goat cheese or other light meals. Seafood, raw oysters, or grilled chicken all go well with this sour beer.
Choose this refreshing drink as one of the best sour beers during a scorching day.
New Belgium Sour IPA
It is uncommon to find a sour IPA. The India Pale Ale (IPA) is known for its hoppy, bitter flavor.
This assertive flavor profile would seem to not marry well with zippy, tart tastes found in most sour beers.
However, New Belgium married these two diverse styles with its New Belgium Sour IPA.
This beer delivers a much higher ABV (alcohol by volume) than many other sours on this list, at 7 percent.
New Belgium brews its base IPA first, then adds 25 percent Foeder-aged Golden Sour to blend the two flavors. The result is a juicier, fruit-forward IPA unlike anything else.
Allagash Coolship Resurgam
There is so much to love about the Allagash Coolship Resurgam approach to making a sour beer.
First, Allagash prefers to call its products “wild beer” instead. This is because their brewing method, called a coolship, invites natural bacteria into the brew, instead of relying on exact injections of yeast strains at precise timings.
The Coolship Resurgam cools overnight using the natural outdoor air, resulting in various bacteria from the air and surroundings entering the liquid.
Then, the beer is transferred to French oak barrels for further fermentation.
This spontaneous brew is then flavored with apricot or candied fruit to deliver a signature, unpredictable flavor you can’t get anywhere but Allagash.
Firestone Walker Bretta Rosé
California’s Firestone Walker produces signature beers like 805 and Mind Haze.
These popular beers appear in restaurants and grocery stores everywhere. However, its Bretta Rose represents a different, limited-edition sour beer.
This thoughtfully-made sour beer delivers intense raspberry flavor from a local California crop.
More than 10,000 pounds of raspberries paired with its signature Bretta ale flavor, then fermented in oak barrels.
The result is one of the most flavorful, best sour beers available only via direct shipping within California.
Two Roads Persian Lime Gose
Two Roads’ Persian Lime Gose combines artisanal Persian lime juice from a craft juicery near its Connecticut headquarters.
Vibrant lime flavors mix with a salt-heavy Gose beer for a refreshing summer drink.
This brewery offers many traditional beer varieties and a large experimental brewing section.
As mentioned earlier, brewing sours requires a high beer IQ. Two Roads demonstrates their creativity and know-how with their amazing line-up of diverse and thrilling beers and sours.
Explore other fun tastes like prickly pear, blood peach, and passion fruit beverages.
Cigar City Margarita Gose
Germany isn’t necessarily known for tropical drinks, but this Cigar City sour helps make the case.
This sour beer replicates a margarita with orange peel and lime added to the light, salty gose brew.
Like many of the other gose sours on this list, this beer offers a friendly ABV of about 4 percent.
Cigar City is based in Tampa and produces beers with diverse influences. In addition to IPAs, Belgian-style white ales, and pale ales, Cigar City produces several goses and sour beers.
Check out their experimental section for unique flavor combinations and whimsical beer names.
Crooked Stave Sour Rosé
This small Colorado producer is the rare brewery that seems to highlight more sour beers than traditional brews.
Combining raspberry, blackberry, and oak barrel flavors, Crooked Stave Sour Rosé offers a light, effervescent beer more closely resembling champagne than beer.
Crooked Stave specializes in beautiful sour beers, presented like wine. Check out their beautiful Cellar Series line of sour ales packaged in wine bottles.
This company provides delicate, refreshing sours and deep, whiskey-tinged sour beers for a full spectrum appealing to all tastes.
Jam Up the Mash
If you’re looking for a more hop-heavy beer without the intense ABV of New Belgium’s Sour IPA, this Canadian variety may fit the bill.
Jam Up the Mash is a dry-hopped sour, combining the bitterness of an IPA with fermented fruit flavors. Its ABV ranks at just over 5 percent.
Jam Up the Mash comes from Ontario’s Collective Arts brewery, combining delicious brews with its unique mission statement.
This brewery cites inspiration not only from its creative line-up of beverages but also from the local artists who adorn its walls and website.
Visit its Hamilton, Ontario location to drink up the art and a juicy Jam Up the Mash.
In today’s American sour market, many beers feature assertive fruit flavors.
However, sour beers hold a long history in Germany and Belgium. These beers, like Rodenbach Classic, feature sour cherries and vinegar flavors, instead of those resembling a margarita.
This approach to sour beers describes the difference between American and European sour beers.
Beers like Rodenbach Classic are often deep brown and malty, with a dense mouthfeel and slight sweetness. Compare and contrast the two to understand which variety you prefer.
Side Project Brewing Blueberry Flanders
Looking for tart, fruit flavor? Side Project Brewing’s Blueberry Flanders may satisfy your craving.
I appreciate bold fruit flavors in my beer, so this tart offering makes this list. Think of flavors like balsamic vinegar when considering this beverage.
Blueberry Flanders is best for sipping and may not pair well with most meals.
Like the Rodenbach, Side Project’s beer is also a Flanders Ale. This lesser-known variety of beer represents a traditional, Eastern-European approach to sour beer.
Expand your understanding of the wide spectrum of sours with Side Project Brewing’s Blueberry Flanders sour beer.
Best Sour Beers
- Urban Artifact The Gadget
- Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale
- New Belgium Sour IPA
- Allagash Coolship Resurgam
- Firestone Walker Bretta Rosé
- Two Roads Persian Lime Gose
- Cigar City Margarita Gose
- Crooked Stave Sour Rosé
- Jam Up the Mash
- Rodenbach Classic
- Side Project Brewing Blueberry Flanders
As anyone with even a passing experience with craft beer knows, the varieties are endless. This is also true with sour beers, which range from fruity, easy-drinking elixirs to deep, heavy concoctions.
Brewing a sour beer needs careful planning and strategy, whether the brewer is using controlled or wild yeast strains. Experimentation and risk-taking reign when brewing a sour, making these beers even more irresistible.
If you’re having fun on a hot summer day, a juicy, refreshing sour beer like the Cigar City Margarita Gose or Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale is my go-to. When winding down from a dreary day, a beer like Allagash Coolship Resurgam provides a refreshing drink to sip and ponder over.
The world of sour beers is fascinating and ever-evolving. Even if you think these sour, vinegary flavors aren’t your thing, give some of these best sour beers a try.
If you love trying new beers, check out the best breweries to visit in the US.