How to Brew Sour Beers: Techniques for Creating Tart and Funky Fermented Brews

How to Brew Sour Beers: Techniques for Creating Tart and Funky Fermented Brews

Sour beers have been gaining popularity in recent years, with their unique tart and funky flavors appealing to beer enthusiasts across the globe. These brews are made using specific techniques that encourage the growth of bacteria and wild yeast, resulting in a distinct sour taste.

If you’re interested in brewing sour beers, there are a few things you need to know. First, it’s important to understand the different types of sour beers and the flavors they produce. From Berliner Weisse to Flanders Red, each style has its own unique characteristics and brewing methods.

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of sour beer brewing and explore the techniques and ingredients needed to create your own delicious tart and funky brews. We’ll cover everything from selecting the right yeast and bacteria strains to aging and flavoring your beer.

What Makes Sour Beers Different?

Unlike traditional beers, sour beers are brewed using bacteria and wild yeast to create a distinct sour taste. This process can take months or even years, as the bacteria slowly consume the sugars in the beer and create lactic acid.

Types of Sour Beers

  • Berliner Weisse
  • Gose
  • Lambic
  • Flanders Red
  • American Wild Ale

Each of these styles has its own unique brewing methods and flavor profiles, making it important to choose the right ingredients and techniques for your desired outcome.

Ingredients and Techniques

From selecting the right yeast and bacteria strains to aging your beer in oak barrels, there are several important ingredients and techniques to consider when brewing sour beers. We’ll cover everything you need to know to get started on your sour beer brewing journey.

What are Sour Beers?

Sour beers are a unique style of beer that are revered for their tart and funky flavors. These brews are made using wild yeasts and bacteria, which give them their distinct sour taste. Sour beers have a rich history that dates back to ancient times, where they were brewed using open-air fermentation techniques.

History of Sour Beers

The history of sour beers can be traced back to the early days of brewing. Before modern sanitation practices were established, brewers relied on wild yeasts and bacteria for fermentation. This led to the development of sour beers, which were made using open-air fermentation techniques that allowed wild yeasts and bacteria to enter the brew.

Over time, brewers began to refine the process of sour beer brewing, developing new techniques and strains of yeast and bacteria. Today, sour beers are brewed using a variety of techniques, including barrel aging, kettle souring, and mixed fermentation.

Sour Beer Characteristics

Sour beers are known for their tart and acidic flavors, which are the result of the wild yeasts and bacteria used in the brewing process. These brews can range from mildly tart to intensely sour, and often have a complex flavor profile that includes notes of fruit, funk, and earthiness.

In addition to their unique flavor, sour beers also have a distinct appearance and aroma. They are often cloudy and hazy, with a funky aroma that is reminiscent of cheese or yogurt.

Common Sour Beer Styles Description
Lambic A Belgian-style sour beer that is fermented using wild yeasts and bacteria.
Gose A German-style sour beer that is brewed with coriander and salt.
Berliner Weisse A German-style sour beer that is light and refreshing.

Overall, sour beers are a unique and complex style of beer that are beloved by beer enthusiasts around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned beer drinker or a novice, trying a sour beer can be a thrilling and rewarding experience.

Sour Beer Brewing Techniques

There are several techniques that brewers use to create sour beers. Here are three popular methods:

Mixed Fermentation

Mixed fermentation involves using a combination of yeast and bacteria to ferment the beer. The yeast is typically a Belgian strain, and the bacteria can include lactobacillus, pediococcus, and brettanomyces. This method can take several months to a year to produce a sour beer, but it results in a complex and layered flavor profile.

Kettle Souring

Kettle souring is a quicker method that involves souring the wort before it is boiled. This is achieved by adding lactobacillus to the wort and allowing it to sour for 12-48 hours. Once the desired sourness is achieved, the wort is boiled to kill the bacteria and continue with the brewing process. This method produces a clean and tart beer in a shorter time frame.

Barrel Aging

Barrel aging involves aging the beer in oak barrels that have previously held wine, whiskey, or other spirits. The barrels can contain various strains of bacteria and yeast that will continue to ferment the beer and create sourness and complexity. This method can take several months to a year or more, but the resulting beer is often highly sought after for its unique flavor profile.

Comparison of Sour Beer Brewing Techniques
Technique Timeframe Flavor Profile
Mixed Fermentation Several months to a year Complex and layered
Kettle Souring 12-48 hours plus brewing time Clean and tart
Barrel Aging Several months to a year or more Unique and complex

Each of these sour beer brewing techniques has its own advantages and challenges. Brewers can experiment with different methods and strains of yeast and bacteria to create a wide range of sour beers with unique flavor profiles.

Ingredients for Sour Beer Brewing


Malt is an essential ingredient in sour beer brewing. The type of malt used in the brewing process can affect the flavor, color, and aroma of the final product. To achieve a sour beer with a balanced flavor profile, it is recommended to use malt with a lower kilning temperature. This is because darker malts tend to impart a sweeter flavor, which can overpower the sourness. Pilsner malt and wheat malt are popular choices for sour beer brewing.


Hops are not as critical in sour beer brewing as they are in other styles of beer. They are mainly used to balance the sweetness of the malt and to provide a slight bitterness to the final product. However, some brewers use hops to add aroma to their sour beers. It is recommended to use low alpha acid hops and to avoid using hops with high levels of essential oils.


Yeast is an essential ingredient in the brewing process as it converts the sugar in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. In sour beer brewing, yeast plays a secondary role to bacteria. However, it is still important to use a yeast strain that can tolerate the acidic environment created by the bacteria. Belgian ale yeast and lactobacillus are popular choices for sour beer brewing.


Bacteria are the primary ingredient in sour beer brewing. They are responsible for producing the lactic acid that gives sour beers their tart and funky flavor. There are several types of bacteria that can be used in sour beer brewing, including lactobacillus, pediococcus, and acetobacter. Each bacteria strain produces a unique flavor profile, and some brewers even use a combination of different strains to achieve a more complex flavor.

Popular Bacteria Strains for Sour Beer Brewing
Bacteria Strain Flavor Profile
Lactobacillus Tart, citrusy
Pediococcus Funky, sour
Acetobacter Vinegar-like

Brewing Process for Sour Beers

The brewing process for sour beers is slightly different from that of other beer styles. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to brew sour beers:


Begin by mashing your grains as you would for any other beer style. However, for sour beers, it’s best to keep the mash temperature on the lower side, around 148-150°F, to create a more fermentable wort.


After the mash, boil the wort for 60-90 minutes as usual. However, do not add any hops at this point. Hops can inhibit the growth of the bacteria and yeast that give sour beers their unique tartness.

Cooling and Pitching

Cool the wort to around 70-75°F and then pitch your desired blend of bacteria and yeast. Many brewers opt for a blend of lactobacillus and Brettanomyces, but there are countless other combinations to try.


Once you’ve pitched your bacteria and yeast, let the beer ferment for several months. This extended fermentation time is necessary for the bacteria and yeast to work their magic and create the sour flavors and aromas typical of sour beers.

Bottling and Aging

After fermentation is complete, bottle the beer as usual. However, it’s important to note that sour beers often benefit from extended aging in the bottle. Aim for at least a few months or even up to a year or more.

By following this step-by-step brewing process, you can create delicious and complex sour beers that are sure to impress.

Tips for Brewing Sour Beers

Brewing sour beers is a unique process that requires careful attention to detail. Here are some tips to help you create tart and funky fermented brews:


One of the most important aspects of brewing sour beers is maintaining proper sanitation. Because sour beers are fermented with bacteria and wild yeast, it’s crucial to ensure that your brewing equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before use. Any residual bacteria or yeast can quickly sour your beer and ruin your batch. Make sure to use a high-quality sanitizer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Temperature Control

Consistent temperature control is also essential when brewing sour beers. Different strains of bacteria and yeast thrive at different temperatures, so it’s important to monitor your brew’s temperature throughout the fermentation process. You may need to adjust the temperature of your brewing space or use a temperature controller to maintain the desired temperature range.


Patience is key when brewing sour beers. Unlike traditional beer styles, sour beers can take several months or even years to fully develop their unique flavors. It’s important to resist the temptation to rush the process and allow your beer to ferment and age properly. This will ensure that you achieve the desired sourness and complexity in your final product.

By following these tips for sanitation, temperature control, and patience, you can create delicious and unique sour beers that are sure to impress your friends and family.


Learning how to brew sour beers can be a challenging yet rewarding experience for any homebrewer. With the right techniques and ingredients, you can create tart and funky fermented brews that are unique and delicious.

One of the most important things to remember is to be patient. Sour beers take time to develop their complex flavors and aromas. Don’t rush the process, and be prepared to wait several months or even years for your beer to reach its full potential.

Another key factor is cleanliness. Make sure your equipment is sanitized and your brewing area is free from contaminants. This will help ensure that your beer develops the desired sourness without any unwanted off-flavors.

Experimentation is also essential in sour beer brewing. Try different yeast and bacteria strains, as well as various fruit and spice additions, to create unique flavor profiles. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes – they can often lead to new and exciting discoveries.

Finally, have fun with the process. Brewing sour beers is a creative and enjoyable hobby that can bring people together and foster a sense of community. So grab some friends, crack open a cold one, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

  • Be patient and wait for your beer to develop its flavors and aromas
  • Ensure cleanliness to avoid unwanted off-flavors
  • Experiment with different ingredients to create unique flavor profiles
  • Embrace mistakes and have fun with the process
Techniques Ingredients
Use a sour mash Brettanomyces yeast
Add lactobacillus or pediococcus bacteria Fruit and spice additions
Age beer in oak barrels Funky hops

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