If you love sour beer you’ve come to the right place. These nine craft breweries specialize and/or focus exclusively on the creation of sour beer, using multiple souring techniques, from kettle souring to sour mashing, to barrel aging and inoculating with souring bacteria. Pucker up!
The Rare Barrel
Jay Goodwin, the cofounder and director of blending and brewing at The Rare Barrel in Berkeley, California, lives and breathes sour beer. “We make only sour beer here and we’re doing it all the time,” he says, and goes on to explain that his beers start as one of three base recipes: golden ale, red ale, and dark ale. “From there we sit down with fruits and spice and tinctures and such, and evaluate the beer’s flavors with those additions.” The results are beers such as Emerald Vision, a golden sour beer aged in oak barrels with fresh cucumber and fresh mint, or Ensorcelled, a dark sour beer aged in oak barrels with raspberries.
Cascade Barrel House
Often noted as the godfather of sour beer in the Northwest, Cascade Barrel House in Portland, Oregon, offers an array of sour beers with “aggressive tart notes balanced by residual sugars.” The brewery’s blending house currently houses more than 1,400 French oak, Kentucky bourbon, and Northwest wine barrels.
Wicked Weed Brewing
Opened in October of 2014, the second production facility at Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina, is the first and only sour and wild-dedicated tasting room in the southeastern United States. This facility, The Funkatorium, houses 500+ barrels where Wicked Weed’s lambic-style ales age and develop. Recent offerings from The Funkatorium include the Angel Series, in which each beer is dedicated to a specific fruit. The Red Angel was brewed with fresh raspberries and aged in red wine barrels, the Golden Angel was rested on apricots in red wine barrels, the White Angel was aged on locally harvested Muscadine and Scuppernog grapes, and the Black Angel is aged in bourbon barrels with Montmorency cherries.
Almanac Beer Company
At Almanac Beer Company in San Francisco, California, the focus is on fruit. “California agriculture is our focal point,” says Cofounder and Brewmaster Jesse Friedman. Dogpatch, Almanac’s flagship sour ale named for its neighborhood, is a Flanders Red-style beer brewed with California Rainier cherries and aged in red wine barrels. The Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry sour blonde ale is aged on coastal Seascape strawberries grown at Swanton Berry Farms in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. The list goes on.
Casey Brewing & Blending
Casey Brewing & Blending in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is also using local fruit for its blended sour beers. Casey Brewing & Blending is creating beers with 99 percent local ingredients and fermenting and aging their beers in vintage oak barrels with a mixed culture of _Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, _and lactic acid bacteria. Since its opening in 2013, the brewery has become known for its Fruit Stand Series, which blends whole, fresh fruits such as cherries, peaches, plums, blackberries, and apricots with saison.
Blue Owl Brewing
The sour beers at Blue Owl Brewing are created through a sour mashing process. The canned lineup coming out of this Austin, Texas, brewery includes Spirit Animal, a sour pale ale; Little Boss, a session sour wheat ale; and Professor Black, a sour cherry stout. Blue Owl also has a barrel-aging program for specialty beer releases.
Phantom Carriage Brewery
Part brewery, part cafe, and part haunted cellar, this sour-beer house in Carson, California (pictured at top), focuses on “alternate fermentations” (using bugs other than Saccharomyces) and uses a wide variety of wild yeast and bacteria to create its beers. Included in their lineup are the oak barrel-aged Bergman Blonde Sour, Cushing Strong Blonde Sour, Rathbone Dark Sour, and Lugosi Strong Dark Sour, among others.
Once a completely “clean” operation, this Asheville, North Carolina, brewery has recently begun specializing in sour beers. Last summer the brewery transformed its original downtown location into a sour and wild-ale facility. Some of the first beers to come out of the converted facility are in the Single Barrel Series, small batches fermented 100 percent in oak barrels, bottle conditioned, then sold in corked and caged 750 ml bottles.
DESTIHL (Bloomington, Illinois) is another brewery that offers both clean and sour beers. The company’s WiLD SOUR series includes multiple goses and Berliner Weisses, a Flanders Red Ale, a kriek, and more. These kettle-soured beers are available in cans and bottles.
Do you have a favorite sour-centric brewery? We’d love to hear about it!