A year ago, many serious beer lovers laughed at the idea of sour beer. Now, they wouldn’t dare. The massive rise in sales of sour brew and the many breweries successfully producing it have pushed it from novelty status into position to become the next big thing in the craft beer industry.
In antiquity, all beer was sour to some extent. Natural wild yeast gave beer a final taste a back-of-the-mouth kick, and wooden fermenting barrels funky with bacteria would also have been contributors. As clean barrels and added yeast came into fashion, sour beer became a thing of the past. While a bit of sourness can sometimes be a thing to appreciate in a glass of wine, sour beer became a sign of bacterial taint.
Now, brewers have safely revived the process by adding wild yeast and a bit of harmless (but effective) bacteria to bring the sourness back. Because it requires bacteria, the process (although very exciting) is best handled by professionals, like Huddersfield’s Magic Rock Brewery, which is experiencing a massive demand for its sour beers.
“Why is there so much demand? It’s all down to complexity. With the same three ingredients it takes to make a regular IPA or bitter you can create something really rich, interesting, and beautiful — something that challenges what many people think of as a beer. -Nick Zeigler
Nick Zeigler of Magic Rock says he gets a kick out of watching people try sour beer for the first time, scrunching up their face a bit on the first sip and then asking for more.
Sour beer is different, but refreshingly so. Some describe the sourness as ear-tickling, like biting into a sour granny smith apple.
Consider this a challenge – go try some and let us know what you think in the comments!