Are you sick of the hops arms race? (They’re releasing a dodeca-IPA! Tastes like citrus and glass!) Are you looking for something different? Something tasty? Something that’ll get you in tight with the beer snob set? It’s time to go sour.
For the uninitiated, sour beers taste like the unholy union of tart fruits and funky socks in beer form. They are spectacularly delicious. They are delightfully weird. And California is ground zero for the sour beer revival.
Craftsman Brewing Company (Pasadena)
Pasadena’s own Craftsman Brewing Company offers a wonderful, nice-to-meet-you sour in the form of Mesa Verde. This is the beer to try first if you’ve never sipped a sour. It’s a light, summery offering; a mildly tart sour that won’t make your face sweat. You’ll get green grapes, white wine, and subtle floral notes out of this 7% ABV, barrel-aged beer.
1945 Berliner Weisse
Black Market Brewing Company (Temecula)
The 1945 Berliner Weisse from Black Market Brewing Company is a featherweight when it comes to ABV, coming in at just 3.8%. But the pucker factor on this one is considerable. A sip of 1945 delivers an uppercut of green apples with a wheat and lemon zest knockout. And this beer is a steal. Temecula-based Black Market is selling bombers of this highly drinkable beer for around $6 a pop.
Dark Pumpkin Sour
Almanac Beer Company (San Francisco)
Stop what you’re doing and seek out a bottle of Dark Pumpkin Sour from San Francisco’s Almanac Beer Company. And when you’re done, spread the word. Just in time for fall, Almanac’s Dark Pumpkin Sour ale offers a nose of pure pumpkin upon first sniff. But this is a beer that tells you a flavor story—there’s a beginning, middle, and end to each sip. It starts with the promised pumpkin flavor, quickly gives way to a lip-puckering blast of sour, and ends with a calming sweetness infused with nutmeg and allspice. Almanac produces several choice sours, but this 7% ABV beauty is not to be missed.
Framboise de Amorosa
The Lost Abbey (San Marcos)
The Lost Abbey’s Framboise de Amorosa is the fruitiest beer of this bunch, and harkens back to the traditional sour beers of Europe (God bless the Belgians). Uncap and uncork this bottle for a funk fest replete with raspberries and oak. The beer is a gorgeous deep red, starts with a raspberry party, and ends with a strong tang of tartness. Framboise de Amorosa’s a bit stronger than the other beers on this list with a 9% ABV, but it’s a nearly perfect sour specimen compliments of San Marco’s The Lost Abbey.
The Bruery (Placentia)
The Bruery in Orange County is making some of the most exciting beers in California right now. And their sour game is ON POINT, to use a sports metaphor, The Bruery’s Oude Tart takes it hard to the paint. And then dunks the ball in the faces of all the other sour beers in California. The 7.5% ABV beer is probably the least sweet brew on this list and one of the most unapologetically sour. A sip of Oude Tart delivers dark fruit flavors and a lot of acid. You’ll get some woody herbaceousness and tart cherry with a touch of vinegar. Oude Tart is not for the unadventurous, but offers rich flavor rewards for the bold.
All sour beers on this list available at various bottle shops around Southern California. Call first; these bottles fly of the shelves with the quickness.