You may know him best for his stellar work at The Crafty Pint, or through his Instagram blog @goodtimescraftbeer, but one thing remains certain: Guy Southern is one of the go-to experts for all things craft beer.
In this guest post, Guy shares his sentiments on the rise of sour beer and its place in the craft beer world, and even offers his suggestions for those looking to get on board with the sour trend!
The zingy ‘sour beer’ term deserves some explaining. This catch-all includes beers from approachable Gose and Berliner Weisse to bracing Lambics, Flemish reds and dark beers. Some may have spent time in oak barrels, been blended for a consistent expression, embellished with fruit additions or enjoyed straight up. Clearly, it’s a broad church.
Key to understanding the sour beer movement is considering how we taste flavour. Our mouths, with help from the rest of our olfactory system, assess flavour as sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami, often in a combination. Sour acidity is what we enjoy in citrus, yoghurt, balsamic vinegar, cider and cold climate wine like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
With this in mind, and in very simple terms, many sour beers replace traditional beer bitterness with acidity (sourness). It could be said that we are actually genetically ready to enjoy sour beer!
Yet, while the origins of such beers date back generations to the Old World of brewing, their arrival on these shores – and much of the New World – has been far more recent. Even at the Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (GABS), where brewers are encouraged to experiment wildly, just four sours featured in the 2012 program.
So, what took so long then? Well, Australian drinkers have had a long way to come in terms of beer flavour. After discovering there was more than lager on offer, the more adventurous of us were busy with the typically big, bitter and hoppy beers of Australia’s third wave of craft beer. What’s more, any talk of sourness or acidity in a beer was likely to be associated with bad or faulty product.
Yet now that acceptance of a broad range of flavours and aromas in beer is increasing on one hand, and even at the pointier end of the beer community, there’s a growing desire for sessionability. The pendulum has been swinging back towards the centre of beer experience – to a place where fruity and gently soured beers seem as likely to bring someone into the world of beer as an approachable pale ale.
Also interesting is the fact these beers that initially seemed a little crazy, are often lower in alcohol and offer a cleansing refreshment that suits our warm climate.
So, here’s five West Australian sour beers to start your journey into new flavours!
Feral Brewing Co. – Watermelon Warhead. An OG Australian Berliner Weisse sour filled with Swan Valley watermelon that sits at a very respectable 2.9% ABV.
Rocky Ridge Brewing Co. – Holy Sh*t, It’s a Mid. This Gose uses a rotating range of fruit saved from landfill. Think: kiwifruit, plum and even cucumber!
Boston Brewing Co. – AfterGlose. Raspberries, raspberries and more raspberries punch through this sweet / salty / sour beer from Denmark.
BeerFarm – sour range. Every few months the Margaret River brewery release a new variant including the annual Shirazzaweisse, regarded as one of Australia’s best.
Colonial Brewing Co. – South West Sour. One of Australia’s most available sours, this peach coloured can is plump with tropical flavour.
You can find Guy writing about beer for the Crafty Pint and his Instagram blog, Goodtimes Craft Beer!