Top Five Recommended Beer Styles Countdown: #5

Branch Out and Expand Your Palate

The first question I get from friends who are new to craft beer is “what kind of beer should I get?” I usually answer their question with a question. What have you tried before? Which flavors or styles do you like? Which flavors or styles don’t you like? Do you prefer a sweeter beer or a more bitter one? Something light or something a little heavier?

People who tell me they like everything scare me a little because chances are, they’re either very right or very wrong. But we all know that sometimes a big selection can mean a lot of confusion for those who aren’t so familiar with the world of craft beer.

This series will focus on my top recommendations, but if these aren’t your thing, hang in there—my goal is for you to confidently go out and try something new!

This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series


#5: Sours – Lambics, Gueuzes & Wild Ales


When I encounter that one friend that swears by wine (and thinks they don’t like beer), I usually start them with a sour beer. Sours tend to be on the lighter, fruitier side which makes for a fairly close comparison to wine. Bonus points if you can find them a sour aged in oak barrels!

The term “sour” actually covers several styles: wild ale, lambic, gueuze, Flemish red, and Berliner Weisse to name a few. Most are tart, yet dry, making this a good substitution for the dedicated wine lover.

Lambic
I especially love lambics because of their tradition and unique style. Unlike most styles of beer, lambics are spontaneously fermented and exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria. This process is what gives lambics their distinct characteristics: dry, sour and sometimes fruity. With extremely low ABVs, these beers are easy to drink, also making them an ideal choice for those who prefer avoiding boozier alternatives.

Native to the Senne Vally and Pajottenland regions of Belgium, the spontaneous fermentation technique used in lambics is a practice that has existed for hundreds of years before the modern brewing process. Although the process is ancient, it’s not exactly simple—the result is extremely complex and divine. Fast-forward to May 20, 1965: This is when the E.U. enacted the first laws surrounding the production of lambics. Among other things, lambics must: contain a minimum of 30% unmalted wheat, use aged hops, employ spontaneous fermentation, and be brewed within 15 kilometers of Brussels, within the Senne Valley.

Gueuze
This is actually a blend of two or more lambics at different ages: usually a young (1 year old) lambic with an old (2-3 year old lambic), which is then bottled with additional fermentable sugars to be used for secondary fermentation. This blend creates a unique taste much different from more traditional ales and lagers. The wild yeasts create flavors and aromas that are dry, cider-like, sour, acidic and even barnyard-like, often generating comparison to champagne.

American Wild Ale
Like the previous two styles, wild ales involve exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria such as Brettanomyces, Pediococcus or Lactobacillus. Mash techniques can vary, but these beers are often aged in oak barrels and commonly have one or more types of fruit added during fermentation. No matter the technique, expect a funky, sour taste and aroma, complemented by possible notes of oak and/or fruit. I hope you’re not discouraged by this description though! It may sound unappealing and even harsh, but it’s a style preferred by many and is growing in popularity every day.

If you’re ready to take a leap of faith and try one of these “this is beer?!” beers, may I suggest…

Lambics:

Lindemans lambics

  • Lindemans
    • Peche (Peach)
    • Framboise (Raspberry)
    • Pomme (Apple)
    • Kriek (Cherry)
  • Timmermans
    • Framboise (Raspberry)
    • Peche (Peach)
    • Strawberry
    • Kriek (Cherry)

Gueuzes:

The Lost Abbey - Duck Duck Gooze

  • Cantillion – Classic Gueuze
  • The Lost Abbey – Duck Duck Gooze
  • Bruery Terreux – Rueuze

American wild ales:

Bruery Terreux wild ales

  • Lost Abbey – Framboise Amorosa
  • Boulevard Brewing – Love Child #5
  • Russian River – Consecration
  • Anything from Bruery Terreux, especially the Frucht line (my personal favorites are Frucht: Yumberry, Frucht: Boysenberry and Frucht: Blackberry)
  • Anything from The Rare Barrel

Sour fans: leave me a comment with your favorites! I want to know what beers you love and why (mainly so I can go out and try them myself)!

My #4 pick will be revealed tomorrow—follow me on Instagram or subscribe below to stay in touch!

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