Top 10 Sour Beers

Historied, complex, and a notoriously difficult brew to master, sour ales are trending in the global craft beer scene. Devil’s Peak is leading the charge in South Africa, and while we continue to push the public’s conceptions of what beer can and should be, it is also pertinent to look abroad for both inspiration and guidance. This is, after all, an epic journey we’re undertaking. So why not consult the cartography of those who are absolutely dominating the space?

Well, we sat down with two of our most seasoned travellers to do just that. As with any style, there are some truly iconic examples of sour ales and we have challenged head brewer JC Steyn and director Russell Boltman to divulge which, in their estimations, are the best of the best. So here it is, our top 10 sour beers.

Location: Cape Town

Beer: Cantillon Kriek

“I had it at my first ever tasting of sour beers. Coming from wine, it was easy to relate to. It had funk, freshness and a great racy acidity.” – JC Steyn

Location: Stockholm

Beer: Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze 2003

“Had this 3 years ago in a beer bar in Stockholm. Other worldly is the only way to describe this. Gave me an appreciation for the ageing capability of sour beers.” – Russell Boltman

Location: Foam Brewers, Vermont

Beer: Foam Red Panda

“Drank this at Foam Brewers in Vermont. Fantastic colour, good acidity but not too grippy – just enough to leave you wanting more. Nice balanced funk.” – JC Steyn

“Had this one with JC at the brewery in Vermont. Brewed by House of Fermentology (an offshoot of Foam). These guys blew us away.” – Russell Boltman

Location: London Craft Beer Week, London

Beer: Westbrook Gose

“I have struggled with this style for a while now, but this beer changed my perception. I’ll be forever grateful for that.” – Russell Boltman

Location: Mikkeller Bar, Copenhagen

Beer: Mikkeller Beetroot Spontan

“Had this one at Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen. Excellent pure acidity with little to no other microbiological acidity. However, it does have some beetroot derived earthiness that adds the complexity and (of course) an amazing colour.” – JC Steyn

Location: West Coast, USA

Beer: Rodenbach Alexander

“These were the guys that got me into sours. To me, this is their best example.” – Russell Boltman

Location: Cape Town

Beer: Side Project Saison du Blé

“Some dude brought a bottle to The Taproom. Great funk and great acidity with the typical characters and spiciness from Saison that I love.” – JC Steyn

Location: Cape Town

Beer: 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze

“This one was brought over by my secret beer mule. Bready and fruity with a Bretty funk and a medium sourness. All the typical aspects of a good Belgian Geuze and a classical example.” – JC Steyn

Location: West Coast, USA

Beer: Russian River Brewing Supplication

“I had this beer many times in San Francisco. For me, it’s the bench mark for American sour beers.” – Russell Boltman

As was bound to happen – we had a double up on one of these picks, so please allow this humble beer marketer to make his entry on to this bold list.

Location: Houston, Texas

Beer: Live Oak Berliner Weisse

“Slight haze in a straw yellow pour with a finger of bright white head. Lots of wheat, lemon and a delicious doughiness that followed from the nose to the palate. A winner in every since of the word and perfect for a hot summer day. Always happy to see another fantastic beer coming from the wildly talented brewers in the greatest state in the Union. As an aside, quoting yourself in an article you’ve written is a dreadful endeavour.” – Mitch Lockhart

Does this list insult your sensibilities? Think we’ve missed a gem? Considering writing your local elected official? Give us your top 10 sour beers in the comments.

Photo Credit: Side Project Brewing