Tag Archive: Sour Ale


Wild Beer Co: Rooting Around: Summer (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Yellowed lemon to apricot. Massive white head that settles to a more manageable level quickly.

Nose: Funky. Oats. Horse blankets. Slight floured dough. Lightly acidic. Rose petals.

Body: Tart. Lightly lemony. Flour. Slight wet wood. Vanilla. Acidic pear. Cherry late on, slight burn at back of the throat.

Finish: Wet wood and acidic lemon. Sherbet lemon to traditional lemonade after that. Gently acidic pears to perry. Slight cherry pocked biscuits. Sour black cherry late on,

Conclusion: I wasn’t sure what to expect for this one, and for the first half of the beer I wasn’t sure what I had got – however it kind of came together by the end.

Initially it seems a simple, mildly sour, Belgian yeast style funk-o-tron of a beer. Disclaimer: Funk-o-tron is not a real beer style. Yet. Give it time. Anyway, mixed light lemon to pear notes with a bit of funk to a mildly acidic back and some slight wet wood. It felt pretty generic in the sour category – not much to stand out in a beer that is very unusual in its set of ingredients and brewing process.

Late on you start to see the influence of those odd introductions, from rose petal aroma notes, to cherry pocket digestive notes, to more raw wood influence. It isn’t blatant, but there is a soft cherry and floral note to the beer showing what they were aiming for with it.

With beer with odd ingredients it can be hard walking the line – too blatant can overpower a beer with off notes – Of The Sea comes to mind for that flaw, so maybe it is best this takes the gentle touch. However if it is too subtle you might as well not use them at all.

Here, well the ingredients add a nice touch, but neither the base beer nor the odd twists really stand out – as a sour it is pretty meh. The extra notes are nice but don’t make it a must have.

A gentle sour that doesn’t really sell its gimmick, but does give it a bit of subtle extra depth. Ok, ya know, but unexceptional.

Background: Yes I know summer has been and gone. I’m behind the times as always. This is the second of the “rooting around” series of beers made with foraged local elements. In this case a sour beer using branches, buds, leaves and blossom from a cherry tree, then aged in Modus Operandi barrels. Wasn’t 100% sure this would work, but liked the cherry blossom imagery, and I’m a fan of Wild Beer Co in general so grabbed it from Independent Spirit. Noticed I had some Terrorvision on my mp3 player – used to be a big fan back in the 90s so slammed on some of their tracks as background drinking tunes.

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Rodenbach: Alexander (Belgium: Fruit Sour Brown: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Clear black cherry red with off white head.

Nose: Red cherries. Tart. Gummed brown paper. Apple cider and pear perry air. Malt chocolate.

Body: Tart. Red cherries. Strawberry ice cream syrup. Cherry-aid. Fizzy. Morello cherries. Slight burn at back of throat.

Finish: Gummed brown paper. Cherry-aid. Strawberry ice cream syrup and raspberry ripple ice cream. Pears.

Conclusion: Ok, a few things off my chest first. This is very smooth for an aged Rodenbach – Maybe it is because I am mentally comparing it to the harsh, acidic, almost vinegar touched thing that is the Grand Cru, but I was expecting something much harsher in that vein, with accompanying complexity as a trade off.

This walks a different path, tending towards a cherry laden interpretation of the standard Rodenbach release – sweet, but slightly tart – with that very familiar gummed brown paper kind of note to it.

The beer is still slightly burning at the back of the throat in a call to the Grand Cru style, still slightly cider touched in acidity, though here with some perry notes as well. So, slightly sour and acidic but generally comparatively mellow in how it deals with those acidic notes.

The cherries are delivered in a harder to explain way. Initial impressions are of an artificial feeling mixing glacier cherries, ice cream syrup, raspberry ripple and cherry-aid. It is not unpleasant but isn’t what I expected – pretty sweet, in a dessert style but kind of cheap artificial feeling dessert. Thankfully it develops far from that – gaining a distinct juicy, kind of morello tart cherry depth. That is what helps make the beer – it makes it feel much more natural, and much more complex. It gives and juicy and sweet core that really cuts through the more artificial notes.

So, smoother than expected, just using just a little backing of that burn and weight familiar to Grand Cru fans. More artificial than expected but with a genuine quality core. Not what I expected then, more gentle, more fruity, and more easy drinking – Well vaguely more easy drinking, still not for people who aren’t looking for acidity or sourness. Ends up a very well done fruit ale with more depth than the short set of notes would suggest.

So very glad I managed to hunt this down.

Background: I have been waiting to get my hands on this one for oh so long! It is one of Michael Jackson’s listed 500 great beers, and has not been made for many a year now, until, finally it popped up again roughly a year ago. This was the first time I managed to find it in person, at my ever reliable booze supplier Independent Spirit. I broke it open while listening a bunch of tunes Warren Ellis curated together many a year ago to match the amount of time I have been waiting to try this. Makes sense to me.

Brekeriet: Picnic Sour Ale (Sweden: Low Alcohol Sour Ale: 2.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Small white head. Fizzing carbonation.

Nose: Rhubarb. Oats. Horse blankets. Lightly tart- pineapple and soft tangerine.

Body: Acidic. Lemon. Dry. Slight cardboard. Tart rhubarb and pineapple. Chalky. Tart raspberry.

Finish: Dry. Squeezed lemon. Slight chalk. Rhubarb rises up over time. Tangerine.

Conclusion: If only there was as much rhubarb in the rest of the beer as the aroma promised. The aroma just oozes rhubarb, I could smell it the entire time I was doing the initial photos to go with these notes. A simple aroma admittedly, but enticing definitely.

The main body still has some rhubarb, more acidic lemon than that, but also it comes with a dull cardboard middle which hurts it. Similarly the generally tart beer has a soft chalkiness that it really doesn’t have enough body to accommodate.

The finish does recover a bit – with the rhubarb fully developing again. Over time the beer does shift back and forth in how it feels – some times it comes across quite full and fruity, other times quite empty and chalky. Generally the longer you hold the beer, the more likely it is that some of the rougher elements come out.

So, it is close to working – some times you get everything coming together just right – but it is too variable in how it comes across. Even when it is more full bodied it is fairly simple in delivery; You get the lemon, the rhubarb and the pineapple at the core – though sometimes a slight tangerine and raspberry come out, especially as time goes on.

I want to like this beer, but it just can’t hold its good points reliably – resulting in an overly dry and chalky feel as you drink on..

A good attempt with distinctly sub optimal results.

Background: After having a great time with the last Brekeriet sour beer I tried, I decided to pick up this low abv one – Looked very interesting, made with rhubarb, which is something I am a big fan of. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to a bit of Erock on youtube.

Lervig: Oud Beersel: Black Acid (Norway: Sour Ale: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Small brown head.

Nose: Acidic apple mixed with thick molasses. Madeira. Rum soaked raisins. Dry sherry. Fruitcake. Sultanas.

Body: Tart yet thick. Bready. Sultanas. Chocolate sauce. Pear drops. Dry sherry. Tart black-cherry.

Finish: Charring. Tart pears. Malt chocolate and grated chocolate. Dry sherry. Raisins and sultanas. Madeira. Slight chocolate liqueur. Marzipan.

Conclusion: Whoever first thought of mixing sour beers and stouts – I salute you. Each time I encounter this unusual mix I am reminded that this is the beer style I never knew I needed, yet now I have it, it is brilliant.

For all its large base elements used to make it, this is a very balanced beer between the styles. From approach to aroma you get huge apple, tart and fresh and yet backed with chocolate thickness. It continues that way as you start drinking – fresh, touched with tart apples and pears up front then the sour character just seeps into heavy chocolate liqueur and dark fruits.

In some way it feels like the barrel ageing is what makes it perfect – a bridge built between the two, marrying the styles brilliantly. If you will excuse my mixed metaphors.

It brings dry sherry, dry fruitcake and spirit soaked raisin notes that are familiar to the stout style, but also vinous enough to not seem out of place in a sour beer; It works as matchmaker mid body then as the finish comes in it plays its own game – leading out for a long time with dry sherry like complexities.

Together it takes brilliant elements from each of the three influences and makes it a rich, yet tart and vinous beer with the stout weight giving it a lovely heft.

A brilliant complex mix – definitely worth getting. Go. Get it!

Background: Now this one jumped out at me at Independent Spirit – It is a mix of Oude Lambiek from Oud Beerel, with a Lervig brewed stout. I love the whole sour stout thing that pops up every now and then, and this one has been aged in the Cognac barrels that the Lambic was blended in, and then in Akevitt barrels. I had to google what Akevitt is. Anyway, put on some good old 90s tunes – Garbage 2.0. I slightly prefer the more raw feel of original Garbage album, but both of them are awesome.

Wild Beer Co: Tepache (England: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold with a small white head. No evident carbonation.

Nose: Cane sugar. Dried banana. Slight funky yeast. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry. Cinnamon. Fresh white bread.

Body: Tart and fresh. Pineapple. Lactose. Nan bread. Cinnamon. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Quite thick mouthfeel. Orange zest.

Finish: Slight smoke. Flour. Pineapple – in a juicy and a tart fashion. Grapefruit. Strawberry. Dried banana. Fresh white bread. Funky yeast. Slight cane sugar. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This is both very unlike most beers, even most wild yeast beers, and also a good show of why I am glad that Wild Beer keep doing their weird experiments – even if they don’t all pay off.

This is very fruit juice led, tart pineapple and grapefruit just bursting out; The texture though is much thicker than that tartness would make you expect. It has a much more traditional beery mouthfeel than most wild yeast beers, and it leads to a beery feel to a not very beery tasting beer. There is a very lactose thickness and it mixes with the sweeter flavours to make a yogurt dessert style second string of flavour. Sweet strawberry to cinnamon notes come out, with light, yeastie banana notes in there as well. These extra notes match the more beer like notes and held bridge the gape between them and the tarter flavours – in doing so it manages to avoid any dissidence between the two halves of the experience.

It builds up the more beer like notes over time – lots of funky yeast notes rising that take a heady yogurt and tart experience and turns it into a very good beer experience. It takes banana like hefeweizen characteristics, cane sugar like Belgian blond high notes, fruit that is too tart to even call to NZ hops, but instead fruit juice like pure flavour, all matched with Belgian Wit style spice use and a milk stout like mouthfeel. This is pretty much the most beer influenced non standard beer that a beer can be. At this point I am just seeing how many times I can say “beer” in a set of notes. A very unusual drink, a very good drink and one well worth trying.

Background: OK, this is another odd Wild Beer Co experiment- a beer made in the style of a Mexican drink that is fermented, but at very low alcohol – So they thought they would try a full on beer version of it. The original version is made from peel and rind of pineapples, piloncillo sugar and cinnamon. This is a beer that uses Mexican maize, wild yeast, cinnamon and cloves along with pineapple and lactose. While not all of their experiments work, I love that they do this weird stuff. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit again and drunk while listening to some excellent punk meets acoustic style tunes from Louise Distras. By the way, she is currently kickstarting to make a new album – so a signal boost – please check her out as I really want more music from her.

Mill’s Brewing: Oliver’s Cider and Perry: Foxbic (England: Cider/Sour Ale: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon to apple juice – goes very cloudy on later pours. Large white mound of a head that quickly vanishes. Lots of small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Dry. Apples to cider. Vanilla. White grapes.

Body: Dry. Oaken. Fresh cut apples. Slight yeastie feel. Slight soft mushy apples. Apricot on later pours.

Finish: Tart grapes. Vanilla. Moderate oak. Moderate bitterness. Flour. Dry white wine. Fresh apples.

Conclusion: OK, I am moving outside my comfort zone by doing notes on this one, as it seems closer to the cider side of things than the beer side – albeit with some lambic style notes in there. Any which way, I’ll see what I can do.

It is on the very dry cider side, with only as little sweetness there in the middle. This then meets a white wine and oaken character akin to the drier lambics. So it is slightly tart, very dry but not especially sour, and has very little mouth puckering character considering the flavours.

Flavour-wise it mixes fresh cut solid apples with their softer, more mushy apple type. No I don’t know the names, unfortunately; My obsessiveness already has an outlet in beer and whisky so I don’t know all the apple names as well. There is also a vanilla sweetness to it that feels more beer than cider, one of the few sweet notes it uses.

It feels reasonable – if you handed me this and told me it was a cider I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise – thought with the heads up given, there is a kind of brett funky yeast character to it, and a slight beery thickness that cider doesn’t often have (in my limited experience).

It’s not one I would return to often, as cider is something I only have occasionally, but it does seem to do it well – a white wine to lambic feeling cider thing that is dry and fairly easy to drink.

Background: Ok, grabbed this one from Independent Spirit as it is, in my experience a unique one. Feel free to tell me if I am wrong on that one. It is a mix of brewing styles from beer and cider to create this – the closest thing to cider I have ever done notes on here. Lots of people ask me to do cider notes, but I’m not quite sure if I’ve got the knowledge or the language to do it justice. Anyway, this is made with the turbid mash method to make the wort in the style of a lambic, but the wort was fermented with Foxwhelp juice by cider lees in old oak barrels for eight months, then bottle condietioned for 8 more months. I had to google some of those terms. Drunk on a far too bloody hot day while listening to a relaxing mix of Ulver music

Lemke Berlin: Yellow Sub Sour (Germany: Sour Ale: 5.4% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon yellow, with a massive mounded white head.

Nose: Wheaty with peppery bitterness. Slight brown bread.

Body: Lemon to lemon curd. Tart apples and pears. Pineapple. Vanilla. Light toffee. Moderate thick texture. Passion fruit. Light chalk. Peach syrup. Fizzy.

Finish: Pear drops. Pineapple. Fresh. Peach syrup. Brown bread. Pink grapefruit. Lactose to yogurt.

Conclusion: This is a lot thicker than I was expecting – it has a lemon curd to yogurt sort of grip for the usually quite dry sour style. It gives a very different intensity and flavour range to what I was expecting going into this – when I found out they called this a “sour milk ale” that made a bit more sense of this, I’m guessing they are using lactose or similar to add a thicker feel to the beer.

Initially, when chilled down, it still leads with fresh tartness that sours are well know for – giving lemon, apple and pear drop notes that give a freshness to the thicker grip. As it warms and the more yogurt side of the feel comes it it gives more grip to the sweeter peach and passion fruit notes. At this point I had definitely realised that this wasn’t your standard sour. It has what, for lack of a better word, I will call a more standard “beer” set of flavours – more traditional hop flavours I guess, matched with a tartness that the more traditional beer style couldn’t bring.

It is very fruity, very fresh, and the grip of the texture not only brings that huge amount of flavour, but also makes it far easier to drink for someone not used to the average sour style. I like it, I like it a lot.

It’s odd to call such an unusual character as having a “More standard beer set of flavours” I know, but in a way it does. Well, more standard for a craft beer anyway, if such words make sense. Lots of tropical fruit flavours- just done fresh, acidic and tart as can be, instead of delivered in an IPA style.

Easy to appreciated, tons of depth and easy to drop into a session without hurting beers coming after it. A very good sour ale for more occasions than you would think a sour could match. In fact, it feels like what Bonaparte wanted to be.

Well worth grabbing if you can.

Background: After the dried hopped Berlinner Weisse had oop north, I was surprised, on googling this, to find out it is another dried hop sour. In this case a dry hopped sour milk ale, according to untapped. Which is an odd set of words to get together. Another beer grabbed from the awesome bottle shop that was Craft Beer Kontor in Hannover. So many beers I wanted, so few I could actually get safely back into the UK. This is one of the three I grabbed and brought back. Anyway, drunk while listening to a bunch of metal covers on youtube – mainly Jonathan Young.

To Øl: Sur Sorachi Ace (Denmark: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon yellow to apricot. Very large mounded white froth head. Some carbonation.

Nose: Light cheese puffs funk and wheat. Flour. Lemongrass. Brown bread. Pepper. Bready in general.

Body: Sour. Sour dough. Lemon-juice. Lemongrass. Marshmallows. Brown bread. Dill pickles.

Finish: Flour. Cloying bitterness. Sour cream. Lemon-grass. Dill pickle. Slight charring.

Conclusion: Ok, maybe Sorachi Ace doesn’t go with everything. Which is a pity. I still hold that a single hopped Sorachi Ace barley wine would be awesome – but apparently the hop doesn’t suit a sour pale ale. Pity. Anyway, despite how I just opened the notes, this isn’t a bad beer. I just don’t think that Sorachi Ace added to it that well is all I am saying.

The base is still pretty nice – a tart sour character mixed in with a quite bready grounding. As I found with my experience with Sur Mosaic they have the base sour pale down pat – it is bit charred in the finish, which can be a flaw sometimes, but just about fits in here.

The issue then is that the lovely lemongrass, bubblegum and dill pickle flavours of Sorachi Ace kind of get lost in here – it is already quite sour lemon and slight pickle to the base so instead of the hop adding, you just end up with the vegetable kind of notes of the character, and less of the cool stuff. You still get some lemongrass, but generally what shines through here is the (admittedly good) base. The slight greenery just takes away from that. It is far from a bad beer, as To Øl know their shit – but even as a Sorachi Ace fan I have to say it doesn’t fit well here.

So, solid beer in execution of the concept – but the idea, or at least the hop choice, lets it down. Despite that I can still enjoy it for the quality of the base beer and will probably experiment with more of the sur hops range to see which hops work better.

Background: I love sorachi ace. Seriously love this weird hop. I had a very good experience with my last Sur * beer from To Øl – so this was definitely one to try. A soured pale ale, single hopped – what is not to like? Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while putting on some heavy duty Meshuggah for enjoyment. It is worth noting there is no name on the front of this beer, just a bunch of sperm looking lines. The only place you find the name is in the description on the back. Which doesn’t seem to have been done for the rest of the range. Odd.


Crooked Stave: Petite Sour Blueberry (USA: Sour Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot to gold with a darker reddish centre. A rim of white bubbles for a head.

Nose: Tart. Acidic cider. Brambles. Twigs. Slight sulphur. Slight bubblegum. Blueberry pie. Dried apricot.

Body: Tart. Quite dry. Slight cardboard. Sour lager characteristics. Lemon in a sherbet style. Ribena. Slight cherries.

Finish: Lemon juice. Slight oak. Dry blueberries. Slight cardboard. Lager like notes. Sour cherry sweets. Slight menthol and slight vinegar.

Conclusion: Ok, unlike a lot of sours, this really doesn’t do too well if you chill it down. While the aroma still had a lovely mix of fruit, cider acidity and light wood notes, the body initially came in very lacking when chilled. It felt like a sour lager with very little fruit character. Now, I mean the idea of doing a sour lager is an intriguing proposition, and I have no idea if it could actually work if done right – but here it was not that great, and also not what I was looking for in this beer.

There is a sherbety lemon style to the beer though, which leads into tarter lemon juice flavours – so it wasn’t entire lacking, but at this point I was feeling severely let down by the beer.

Time and warmth does bring out a bit more – some blueberry finally comes out – a bit more funk and oak as well. However this does remind me of something I touched upon recently. Often the most commonly used fruit for sours – the raspberries, cherries, etc – are picked because they work well. Blueberry isn’t super rare, but it definitely isn’t one of the standbys – and this beer feels like the reason why. There is some blueberry character to this as it warms, but even like that it doesn’t bring enough flavour to hide the soured lager like flavours below. This is especially a problem in the finish, and hurts the beer a lot. The body shows through a lot with this fruit, and it doesn’t have a a high quality enough body to make that work.

Warmed up more it does have moderate sourness, and kind of a cider character, but nowhere near enough a solid enough base to be deep and worth examining, and with not enough fruit to make that special.

A bit sub par – not terrible, but, especially considering the cost of this, you can get far better. Feels a too petite beer does this sour.

Background: Never tried any Crooked Stave – if this beer is anything to go by they tend to be quite expensive. Anyway, this was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit -other alcohol providers are available. You don’t see many blueberry sours in my experience – blackcurrant is not uncommon (or cassis I think it is called for Belgian sours) – but not blueberry, so I thought I would give it a go. Drunk while listening to some epic, over the top, theatrical metal with Evil Scarecrow!

wild-beer-co-breakfast-of-champignons

Wild Beer Co: Breakfast Of Champignons (England: Sour Ale: 4.1% ABV)

Visual: Dark apricot skin colour. Settles to a thin white head a few seconds after pouring. Some dark sediment.

Nose: Sour. Chestnuts. Lemon juice. Dry. White pepper. Slight vinous and raisins undertones and dry Madeira.

Body: Tart – tart apples. Slight chestnut. Light vinegar touch. Tart apricot notes. Slight floral notes. Generally nutty. Aniseed. Madeira. Malt chocolate. Grapes.

Finish: Lemony. Tart. Slight orange juice. Dried mushrooms. Petals.

Conclusion: OK, I am not quite sure what I was expecting from this beer. I mean, mushroom in a beer? I don’t really have much experience to extrapolate from here. No idea how it would alter the beer. Now I have it in my hands, I am still trying to work out what exactly it is I have got.

Well, what we seem to have is a lightly nutty sour ale. From my love of mushrooms in general I am happy to guess that the mushrooms provide the nuttiness. I’m going out on a limb here. Any which way. Not as wild and out there as you may expect from the beers base concept – let’s face it lambics can be slightly nutty in their sourness – so this sour ale isn’t too unusual in bringing more of that.

Generally it is a nice beer – Comes in with reasonable but not heavy sourness – more fresh than anything else for the most part – with occasional harsher vinegar notes. Gives the expected lemon and apple tart notes which become less evident as the nuttiness rises. It does have some unusual depth to it though – both on the nose and the body, just at the edges you may catch some subtle Madeira and vinous notes. Very subtle undertones, but nice to see they are there.

The tartness of the beer get soothed over time, late on you get much more predominance from the nuttiness and even some light malt chocolate merges in to give a very different beer to what you started with – though you never completely lose the tart base. It is a reasonable enough beer, but doesn’t feel too special – or even too unusual all things considered. It was an odd choice going with mushrooms as the extra ingredient, and it had resulted in the neither a terrible, nor an expectational beer – just a subtle influence on a competent sour.

Not raving, not complaining – an oddly standard sour.

Background: OK. Right. Erm. This is a beer made with mushrooms. So, yeah that is a thing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a beer made with Penny Bun to be exact – a wild mushroom that mankind has yet to manage to deliberately cultivate. Which is interesting. Was a tad nervous about it after Wild Beer Co’s lobster beer didn’t work out well – but finally decided to give it a try.

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