What is a Sour Ale or Wild Ale?
Sour Ales: where they come from, their appearance, flavour & aroma, palate & mouthfeel, food pairings and serving suggestions are all explained in this Beer Styles 201 article.
By The Beer Community on Mar. 27, 2019
What are Sour Ales & Wild Ales?
Sour ales aren’t necessarily wild ales, and wild ales aren’t always sour ales.
Sour ales are beers that are brewed to be intentionally sour. Originating in Belgium, brewing sour beers can be a risky move to brewers because it is a specialized form of brewing. In the craft beer industry today, sour beers have moved outside of Belgium and is starting to gain popularity to other European, American and Canadian brewers. Wild ales are American beers that are brewed to have strong Brettanomyces characteristics.
Sour Ales vs. Wild Ales: What’s the difference?
It is not uncommon to assume that wild and sour ales are the same beer style, but did you know that not wild ales are sour?
Here’s what The Oxford Companion to Beer says about the difference between sour ales and wild ales:
“The development, largely by American craft brewers, of entirely new categories of beer [that use wild yeast and/or bacteria] during the past decade, has resulted in the need for a new nomenclature to describe them. This nomenclature is surely unsettled, but the two terms in general use are ‘sour beer’ and ‘wild beer.’ ‘Wild beer’ is generally used to describe any beer that displays earthy characteristics of Brettanomyces yeast strains, regardless of whether the beer is a light golden ale or a strong dark stout. If the brewer adds acidifying bacteria to the beer, it is termed a ‘sour beer.’ If both Brettanomyces character and bacterial acidity are in evidence, then the beer is generally deemed to fit both categories.”
Wild ales are essentially earthy beers with a strong Brett character that presents no added acidity. The term sour beers refers to beers that are made with wild yeasts and have added bacteria that results in a sour, acidic flavour. Wild ales can be sour. The main difference between a sour ale and and a wild ale is the addition of bacterias, like Lactobacillus or Pediococcus. During the barrel aging process, these microorganisms convert unfermented sugars into lactic acid, resulting in a sour flavour.
Added Bacteria = Sour Beer
Brett Brettanomyces Yeast & No Added Bacteria = Wild Ale
Acidic & Has Brettanomyces = Both
Sour Ales – Did you know?
Sour ales are often made with tart fruits which compliment the acidity; those include lemons, limes, passion fruit, pineapples and cherries
View this post on Instagram
You know what they say, Sundays are for sours! 📸: @leftbeerbrewery 🍺: Mojito Sour | ABV: 4.0%
Sour & Wild Ale Essential Information:
Style Region of Sour Beers:
Sour beers originated in Belgium.
Style Region of Wild Ales:
Wild ales were first brewed in America.
Appearance of a Sour or Wild Ale:
Sour and wild ales often result in a light golden, sometimes clear sometimes hazy yellow. Other ales can be a light copper to deep red colour.
Wild & Sour Ale Flavour & Aroma:
Hop aroma, flavour and bitterness can be showcased over a full range from low to high. In darker versions of wilds and sours, roasted malt, caramel and chocolate-like aromas are sometimes present. Sour ales are acidic and sometimes fruity.
Palate & Mouthfeel:
Sours and wilds can have either a low or high carbonation with a mouthfeel on the lighter side.
What foods pair well with Sour or Wild Ales?
Pair sour beers with duck or pork chops, as the acidity can be used to harmonize with fatty cuts of meat. Fruity characters in wild and sour ales pair well with light fruit dishes or spicy vegetables.
How to serve a Wild / Sour Ale:
Sour and wild ales are often served in a goblet or tulip glass. When it comes to serving temperature, there isn’t an exact number because sour and wild beers can all be so different. A good starting point would be somewhere between 40 – 50° F.
Comparable styles to Sour Ales & wild Ales:
Berliner Weissbier, Lambics, Flanders Red Ale.
Want to try some sour and wild beers?
Here are some of our favourites:
Kettle Sour #1 – Blindman Brewing
Pucker Plucker – Phillips Brewing & Malting Company
Kriek – Cascade Brewing Barrel House
Now that you’re a Wild / Sour Ale know-it-all, learn more about other beer styles below:
Amber Ale / Dark Ale
Amber Lager / Dark Lager
Belgian IPA / White India Pale Ale
Double IPA / Imperial IPA
Golden Ale / Blonde Ale
Golden Lager / Pale Lager
India Pale Ale (IPA)
10 Beer Names You Might Be Saying Wrong
Sometimes you just start a habit and it sticks, so make sure you are saying the names of these beers correctly and avoid an embarrassing craft beer faux pas when out at the bar.
Does Beer Go Bad? How to Prevent a Skunky Beer
Sometimes a bottle of your favourite beer that gets pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. It’s sad, but it happens. If you’re thinking “Can I drink old beer?” “Does beer expire?” “What is a skunky beer?”, keep on reading to find out all you need to know about beer gone bad!
What is an English Bitter?
A bitter is a English or British style pale ale which is popular for it’s slightly bitter but sessionable and mild flavour. In this article we’ll cover the essential information you need to know about bitter beer.
German Beer Styles – History & Info About Germany’s Greatest Creation
Think all German beers are light coloured lagers? Nothing could be further from the truth! Follow along in this 5-part history series as we cover over 10 beer styles unique to Germany