Bringing Balance to the Sour Beer Craze #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / July 30th, 2018 / 7

Sour beer is super trendy. It’s great to see a style that used to be only for extreme beer nerds – we sought out Belgian Lambics, Flanders’ reds and browns, and Berliner Weisse in the 80s and early 90s – reach mainstream status, at least in the realm of serious beer lovers.

These days it is common for many microbreweries across North America to offer a sour beer, at least as a seasonal, if not full time. Many of them are made by souring the mash with lactic acid, and others add a special culture that’s a blend of wild yeast and specific bacteria, trying to duplicate what happens naturally in Belgium. It is also possible to just “let it happen” with local wild yeast and bacteria, but that can be risky.

Some of you enjoy very sour beers, extremely sour, even when they are bone dry. Personally, I find many of the sours on the market too sour, some painfully so. But that’s fine. It is perfectly OK to add something to balance it out. That is how the Germans drink Berliner Weisse, with an addition of sweet fruit syrup, usually raspberry or woodruff.

I tried the Big Axe Seaberry Sour recently, a kettle soured ale, 4.8%, aged with New Brunswick grown Sea Buckthorn berries.

It is fresh and tasty, but quite dry, and thus the sourness was a bit much for me. So, I added a tiny squirt of Cranberry/Raspberry Mio, and found perfect balance. Yes, I’d prefer fresh, naturally made fruit syrup, but the Mio syrups are super convenient and heavily concentrated. A little goes a long way. I use them for cocktails occasionally, as well.

Everyone has a different tolerance/preference for sourness, and bitterness, so you should feel comfortable to use whatever technique you like to bring balance to your beer.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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