As humans we are not predisposed to like flavours that are either too bitter or too sour. Most people like salty flavours, while umami ones are rather moreish, and everyone likes sweet things—those who say they don’t are lying. But bitter and sour flavours don’t get much love from the masses, which isn’t that surprising really, since these flavours can be associated with poisonous things and helped to inform our early ancestors whether something might harm them or not. But in these modern times, we have a pretty good idea about whether something is poisonous and most of us have learned to appreciate the nuances of bitter vegetables and sour citrus.
That brings us to sour beer, one of the year’s biggest trends, we’re told, for the hop-lovers amongst us. Previously a category that was somewhat unapproachable for the casual beer drinker, the landscape has changed in the past couple of years as craft brewers have begun experimenting with different styles of sours. If you’re new to the category, a good place to start is with Mikkeller’s Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse Blueberry, try saying that 5 times fast! At 3.7% and dark magenta in colour, this blueberry Berliner Weisse has a grown-up Ribena quality about it. While it looks like it will be very sweet and fruity due to the dark pink hue, it’s actually quite dry and refreshing…plus it comes in a cool can!
For those who want a sour that packs a bit more of a punch try Dugges Black Currant, an organic Nordic wild ale that comes in at 4.5%. The bright pink colour of this beer once again gives the perception of sweetness where in fact there is almost none. But despite this lack of sweetness, there is a good level of acidity and a pleasing finish to this rich, jammy sour. With notes of stewed fruit on the palate, Dugges Black Currant is well-balanced and mouthwatering.
And speaking of beers that make you salivate, Original Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie is as delicious as it sounds. Don’t be put off by the questionable image on the bottle (those who’ve seen it know what we mean), this collaboration between two of the biggest names in craft brewing, Omnipollo and Buxton, is both tart and creamy and at 6% ABV it’s certainly more exciting than a slice of pie.
If confectionary sours are your thing, you can’t go wrong with Urban Farm House’s Tartelette. Coming in at 4.5%, this approachable sour from the team over at Redchurch Brewery has notes of green apple and honey on the nose but a palate that tastes almost exactly like its namesake lemon tart. Refreshing, and dare we say sessionable, this is a benchmark sour beer.
Talking of benchmarks, no conversation about sours would be complete without a mention for Siren Calypso, the standard bearer for craft Berliner Weisses everywhere. Named for the beautiful, sharp-tongued goddess who enticed Odysseus on his travels, Calypso is everything a good sour should be and comes in at 4% ABV. With its tropical nose, thanks to the addition of Citra hops, and its juicy, refreshing palate, no mortal can resist the temptation of this beer.