In some ways sour beers are the opposite of pilsners – pilsners are entry-level beers for beginners with little beer-tasting experience while sours are for advanced yet jaded beer adventurers who are looking for something fresh and new to get excited about again.
There are many types of sours, and not every one is everybody’s cup of tea – so in our list of the best 29 sour beers, we’ve tried to include a broad range to help you find the all the ones you’ll love the most.
The Best Sour Beer List
1. Coolship Resurgam (Allagash Brewing Company, USA)
The Coolship Resurgam is a Belgian-style gueuze that goes through an elaborate brewing process to create a something that’s truly worth waiting for. It undergoes overnight cooling in a coolship, a kind of large pan, allowing natural yeasts to enter the beer, and it is then transferred to French oak barrels for fermentation and aging. The finished product is then created by blending beer that is one, two and three years into its aging, giving birth to something complex and sophisticated yet bright and refreshing. The Belgians might have invented this style of beer and perfected it through years of practice, but this is an excellent take on the style from an American brewery that obviously knows what it’s at.
2. Tartare (Bear Republic Brewing Co., USA)
The Tartare from Bear Republic Brewing is a version of a German Berliner weisse, one of the most traditional varieties of sour beer. It has a cloudy deep orange color in the glass without producing much head – and the head that does form quickly dissipates. The nose has a tart acid tang to it that combines lemon and vinegar with something of the farmyard. On sipping, the lemon shines through, backed by a good dose of vinegar. This might not sound so appealing, but it works well, making this a slightly unusual but tasty sour to sample for fans of the style.
3. Bretta Rosé (Firestone Walker Brewing Co., USA)
This is another Berliner weisse, this time from California-based Firestone Walker Brewing. It is first aged for six months in French oak before locally grown fresh raspberries are thrown in, and the beer is then left to undergo a second formation that lasts a further four months. This results in a beer that is full of the aromas of raspberries and other fruit including citrus, and that tastes of raspberry jam backed by a touch of oak and some lemony tartness. It’s sour with good acidity and is well-balanced overall, making it a refreshing beer that’s ideal for the summer.
4. Oude Geuze Vintage (Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, Belgium)
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen is a renowned Belgian brewery that’s famous for producing beers of this kind, and the Oude Gueuze Vintage is a special version of one of their acclaimed beers. The color is somewhere between yellow and orange, and it produces little head when poured. On the nose, you’ll find notes of fruits like pear, orange and citrus as well as some oak and a promise of acidity. Most of this comes through in the taste, and it has a light body without being too sour, making it pleasant and easy to drink. An excellent example of this style and one to savor if you’re fortunate enough to find one.
5. Blueberry Flanders (Side Project Brewing, USA)
A Flanders red ale named for the northern region of Belgium where this style originated, the Blueberry Flanders is aged in Missouri oak Chambourcin barrels before the addition of Missouri-grown blueberries for further aging. The color is a deep red with a very slight blue tinge, and the head it produces when poured is also stained by the color of the blueberries. Unsurprisingly, the dominant aroma and taste come from the blueberries, and this is accompanied by a range of other fruits and an unmistakable undercurrent of oak. The levels of acidity and fruit are just about right, the finish is medium-dry. An easy-drinking beer that most people will rate highly.
6. Zenne Y Frontera (Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, Belgium)
Quite simply a world-class lambic beer from Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen that provides the standard for all others to follow. Meticulously brewed, the process includes a 12-month aging period in 40-year-old casks to give it a rich and deep flavor profile you can lose yourself in. On the nose, you’ll find more than a hint of the barnyard, with hay and oak accompanied by things like cheese, lemon and a musty earthiness. When you taste it, you’ll be hit by more barnyard funk and more oak as well as many other subtle undertones, and then something like sherry comes in at the end. There’s very little to compare it with, and anyone who has chance to sample it will realize they are drinking something a little bit special.
7. Miami Madness (J. Wakefield Brewing, USA)
Miami Madness is a complicated beer with a lot going on beneath the surface, making it one you’ll want to sit and appreciate slowly. There’s all kinds of fruitiness in the flavor profile, including tropical notes like mango and guava, and you’ll also pick out some others like orange and citrus, especially as it begins to warm slightly. There’s also a pleasant amount of tartness to ensure all the fruit doesn’t overwhelm everything, giving it just the right balance and making it a highly sought-after beer of this style.
8. Cran Bu (De Garde Brewing, USA)
At only 2.3% ABV, this is a very low alcohol Berliner weisse that is aged in second use gin barrels along with local Oregon coast cranberries. The color is orange but almost red, and it produces a surprisingly big and fluffy head when poured into the glass. The flavor profile is led by cranberries, and there is a reminder of the oak from the barrels along with a pleasing amount of a tart citrus twang. Easy to drink and with an unusual flavor, making it one that most people will appreciate.
9. Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge (Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste, Belgium)
A traditional Flanders red ale from Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste, this beer is spontaneously fermented in barrels, where it remains for at least 18 months of aging. It has a reddish-brown hue and is topped by a foamy off-white head. In the nose, it offers hints of fruit such as cherry and plum along with some oak and a whiff of something like vanilla. In the mouth, the taste is fruity, as predicted by the nose, and you’ll find a slight vinegary sourness that is at just the right level of intensity. This is a good example of what the style should be like, and worth tracking down if you want to taste an original Belgium example.
10. Balaton (Side Project Brewing, USA)
Ruby red and slightly murky in the glass with a wispy head that seems as reluctant to form as it is keen to disappear. Cherries are dominant in the nose and the flavor profile, and before sipping, you’ll also notice the acidity and a touch of vinegar. On starting to drink, you’ll probably be able to detect something spicy like cinnamon, and there’s a delicate sweetness jostling with the tart flavors throughout to help maintain the balance. A great beer from a respected US craft brewery.
11. DFPF (J. Wakefield Brewing, USA)
Considered the pinnacle of the Berliner weisse style – and reaffirmed by the fact that this beer currently sits at the top of BeerAdvocate’s list of beers in that category – DFPF is an exceptional beer that’s hard to get hold of but worth the effort of trying. DFPF might sound like a strange name, but it stands for “dragon fruit and passion fruit” – and when you know that, everything starts to make sense. Those fruits are the predominant elements of this beer’s flavor, and they also provide a perfect balance between the sweet and the tart. A highly creative and original brew that demands to be sampled.
12. La Folie (New Belgium Brewing Company, USA)
An attractive and enticing opaque brown in the glass with a thin beige head, this brew is several years in the making. It blends beers from barrels at several stages of a four-year aging process to create a strong and satisfying final product. The nose gives off aromas of caramel, which is backed by the promise of sour fruit. In the mouth, the fruity sourness comes to the fore, led by notes of dark cherries and green apples, and you’ll also pick up some definite oakiness from the barrels. The first sip tastes aggressively sour, but then your palate acclimatizes. Complex and tasty, but perhaps best if you don’t have more than one or two in a sitting.
13. Veruca Snozzberry Gose (Funky Buddha Brewery, USA)
This is an extremely unusual beer from Funky Buddha Brewery in Florida. It pours a bright yellow color that is half-way to orange and with little in the way of head. On smelling it, your nose will be assaulted by a riot of fruitiness, including notes of raspberry, mango, passion fruit, banana and apricot – or perhaps that combination is just what a snozzberry is supposed to smell like! Passion fruit leads the way with the taste, followed by mango, banana and the rest, and the overall sensation is of a tart sourness with a hint of salt, especially in the finish. An ambitious style for a brewery to attempt – but with this beer, they’ve pulled it off magnificently.
14. Oude Lambiek De Cam (De Cam Geuzestekerij, Belgium)
A traditional lambic from Belgium, this beer has a cloudy deep golden color and produces little or no head when poured into the glass – as well as practically no visible carbonation. It gives off whiffs of tart lemon, some hints of other sour fruits and something of the barnyard. The taste is sour but not excessively so, and there’s plenty of sour and acidic fruitiness going on in there with something like grapefruit and gooseberry. All in all, this is an excellent example of what this style should be like from the land that created it, and it makes a good introduction to lambics if you haven’t tried many before.
15. Super Spruce (Grimm Artisanal Ales, USA)
Super Spruce is a goze from New York’s Grimm Artisanal Ales and is dry-hopped for extra depth of flavor. It’s light golden in color, and the nose delivers lemon and lime with a touch of pine. It’s a rich and complex nose, and the taste is even more so, with a tart, salty flavor at the beginning that gives way to a hoppy bitterness as it develops, before leaving you with a crisp, dry finish. A unique beer that’s also highly refreshing – and one to order without hesitation if you see it being served in a bar.
16. Duck Duck Gooze (The Lost Abbey, USA)
A Belgian-style gueuze – as you may deduce from the play on words in the name – this offering comes from California-based brewers The Lost Abbey. Unfortunately, the brewers only produce this in small quantities every few years, so you’ll be exceptionally lucky to find one. However, if you are fortunate enough to land one, you can expect a complex sour beer with plenty of tart fruitiness that you’ll want to savor from the first sip to the last.
17. 50°N-4°E (Brasserie Cantillon, Belgium)
Ranked at #2 in BeerAdvocate’s list of traditional lambic beers, this is a spectacular brew from the exceptional Brasserie Cantillon, located in the Belgian capital, Brussels. It has a delicate yellow color and produces a thin, light head. Since it’s aged in cognac barrels, you find a whiff of that in the nose, and this carries over into the taste too, where it adds a slightly sweeter note and takes the edge of the bitterness. This is, without doubt, a world-class beer, and although it costs a lot to buy, it’s worth paying that much to sample it.
18. Girardin Gueuze 1882 – Black Label (Brouwerij Girardin, Belgium)
A top-end gueuze from Belgium’s Brouwerij Girard, this one is lively and keen to get out of its bottle, so be careful when you pop the cork! It pours with an attractive orange color and a frothy white head that dissipates slowly. The nose is a funky mixture of cheese, sour cherries and citrus, and the taste is similar, with a pleasant sour bitterness that is gentle and agreeable rather than being too assertive. There’s a lot of other stuff going on in the background too, and overall, it’s a well-balanced and perfectly executed gueuze that’s a must-try for those who appreciate this style.
19. Never Never Again Again (The Veil Brewing Co., USA)
This beer is a doubled-up version of the raspberry gose brew named Never Again from the same brewery, and as they claim, they’ve taken things to extremes here by throwing in a huge dose of raspberry purée. It is hardly astonishing, then, that the beer is red in color and is dominated by raspberries in both the nose and the mouth, and you’ll also find a touch of bitterness and a shake of salt in there as you drink it. As the brewery claims, it’s a fruit smoothie for adults. And if that’s what you want, you’re sure to love it.
20. Blender – Raspberry (New Park Brewing, USA)
Like the beer above in #19, this is another raspberry-filled treat, this time brewed with mosaic hops. The color is a purplish red and the nose is strongly reminiscent of raspberries and yogurt. There’s just the right balance of tart sourness counteracted by a creamy sweetness, and overall, the result is refreshing and drinkable. A winner for lovers of overtly fruity fruit beers.
21. Beersel Mattina (Birrificio del Ducato, Italy)
In a list dominated by the US and Belgium, here’s a lone entry from Italy – and it’s one that more than deserves its inclusion. It’s a traditional lambic of 6.2% ABV that comes in an attractively shaped bottle. It has an enticing hazy golden color, and the nose draws you in with sour vinegar and some notes of the barnyard. The nose carries into the flavor, and you’ll also find things like citrus and grapefruit in there. Italy is not known for this style, but this is a fantastic take on it.
22. Gose (Westbrook Brewing Co., USA)
Not the most imaginatively named beer, but that’s maybe because the quality of the brew does all the talking. This beer is exceedingly refreshing, delivering a nose full of lemon and lime backed up by coriander and salt, and for the taste, imagine that but with an extra tart sour kick. An exemplary beer of this style and almost perfect in its execution.
23. Rosso E Marrone (Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., USA)
A traditional Belgian style of beer with an Italian name from a New York-based brewery, an curious mix that promises big! The name means “red and brown” and refers to the fact that it is brewed by mixing red wine grapes with brown ale – add to this a dose of Brettanomyces and you have a beer ready to deliver on all its promises. Refreshingly sour and satisfyingly complex, this is a top effort from Captain Lawrence.
24. The Dissident (Deschutes Brewery, USA)
The Dissident is brewed with dark sugar and cherries and then aged in pinot noir barrels to produce a brew that is almost a hybrid of beer and wine. That might not sound immediately appealing, but with this creation, Oregon brewery Deschutes has pulled it off. The cherry comes through in both the nose and the taste, and it’s rounded off by the perfect amount of sourness. A beer you’ll have to try to understand – and if you see one, make sure you do just that!
25. Oude Tart – Cherries (Bruery Terreux, USA)
A Flemish-style red ale that’s a highly respectable attempt by an American craft brewer at this challenging Belgian style. The strong acidity is easy to detect in the nose, along with a gentler backdrop of red fruits and wood. All of these come together much more strongly in the taste, with a puckering sourness and lively carbonation that make it irresistible.
26. Spontané Wilde (Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, USA)
A spontaneously fermented beer brewed in the traditional way, Washington-based brewery Logsdon Farmhouse Ales has come up with the goods with their Spontané Wilde. It uses pilsner malt, raw wheat and aged hops during the brewing process and is then oak-aged in a cave until it reaches a state of near perfection. It has plenty of weirdness and depth, especially when aged for longer, and will be a hit with anyone looking for something original to taste.
27. Soursmith Black Raspberry (Arclight Brewing Company, USA)
A fruity beer that is big and brash and takes no nonsense. It has a deep purple color and forms little in the way of head when poured. It smells of balsamic vinegar and sweet dark berries. In the mouth, it is unapologetically tart with a touch of acid to back it up – as well as those berries again, which are the star of the show. A great brew if you like them to be right up in your face – but maybe not one for those who prefer a bit more subtlety and finesse.
28. Goudenband (Brouwerij Liefmans, Belgium)
At 8%, this beer has among the highest ABVs on our list. It is dark brown with a delicate, ephemeral head, and on smelling, you’ll pick out hints of cherries and other similar fruits with a gentle dose of vinegar. The flavor profile is complex and full of tart cherries, green apples, some malty sweetness and a touch of vinegar that is less prominent than the nose suggests. There’s a lot going on in this one, making it a beer to ponder rather than quaffing in large quantities while propping up the bar.
29. Twice the Daily Serving: Raspberry (Trillium Brewing Company, USA)
To finish up, here’s one more big and fruity beer that will leave you wishing for more. The name gives it all away really. There’s raspberry in the nose, raspberry in the taste and in the glass, it looks like a raspberry smoothie. According to the brewers, they added – you guessed – an “outlandish” amount of raspberries to brew it, so this is what you get. What may come as a surprise is that there is more to this beer than just raspberry, and at 7% ABV, it has a decent boozy kick too. This one is more than just a drink – it’s an experience. And one you’ll need to test yourself to fully comprehend.
Some crazy beers to try – and some world-class ones too
As you can see from our list, some sours represent the pinnacle of brewing experimentation, creativity and perhaps even insanity while others are sophisticated sometimes esoteric brews that demand attentive contemplation.
You won’t like them all, and you may have even picked out a few here that sound more like punishment than pleasure. However, one thing’s for sure – you’re going to have a lot of fun tracking some of them down and trying!