Sour Beer Questions

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Dan_K, Sep 24, 2015.

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  1. Dan_K

    Dan_K Zealot (515) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado

    I am just now getting turned on to sour beers. They vary wildly in many ways. I am trying to make sense of it so I can figure out what I like and how to make more educated purchases. These beers tend to be expensive so I prefer more "hits" than "misses". I realize that sour isn't a style, a lot of sour beers tend to be wild ales that I've run into.

    Jester King Sin Fronterra
    Crooked Stave Surette
    Avery 22 Anniversary wild ale on Brett
    Avery San Juan Sour
    New Belgium Hop Tart
    Paradox Deux Ans (Red Flanders style)

    Disliked (too sour!):
    Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett
    Crooked Stave Sin Fronterra
    Avery Eremita VII
    Avery Rufus Corvus

    So I guess my preference at this time is moderately sour beers and not extremely sour. However is there a way of knowing how sour something is before you buy it- any tips? I have had brett stuff that I really liked, and brett stuff that I thought was too sour. I haven't seen a "measure" of sourness like IBUs for example.
  2. VincentFrey

    VincentFrey Initiate (0) Jul 30, 2011 Maryland

    One measure of sourness would be pH score, although I don't know how often they're actually published. I believe Jester King does list pH on their site though, so maybe read up on the scale and look around where Sin Fronterra fell? That said, it is only a measure of acidity, and body, fruit, and other factors could affect perception of flavors (just like IBUs).
  3. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (3,102) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Society Trader

    If you can't find a pH score, go to reviews and look up one of your favorite sour beers. Click top reviewers, and find one who had a similar experience to you. Look at other of his/her reviews and see if the beer you are considering purchasing has been reviewed by that person. Chances are if you found that his/her palate is similar on a few beers, you can fairly well rely on the same for all the beers reviewed. There is no better way than this to judge if you will like a sour beer.

    IBU's is an unreliable way to judge bitterness for a variety of reasons. In fact, you are better off doing the same as above to judge a new beer's bitterness; find a top reviewer with similar palate.

    Brett does not sour beer, mostly it is bacteria that do it, although Brett can throw a degree of sour into a beer. The more sour styles are Berliner Weisse, Gose, Flanders Red and Brown. Wild Ales can be sour but can also be funky, lemon limey, earthy, and spicy, and many more flavors, all of which are flavors thrown by Brett.
    larryi86, pat61, Bitterbill and 11 others like this.
  4. lambpasty

    lambpasty Initiate (0) May 3, 2013 New Hampshire

    You'll get a better feel for how sour you like your sours the more you explore the sour styles I think. It's not quite like anything else where you can say "I don't tend to like IPAs over 80 IBUs" because sours by nature tend to be much more variant. @cavedave is right too regarding Brett, it can add some bright acidity but more often than not is not really "sour" in a tart way, per se.

    Sours that are described as dry or tart but not lactic may appeal to you more too, I believe high lactic acid is what tends to give that enamel-stripping sourness.

    Also as a side note, definitely check out Lambics as a whole, they often have a mix of sour and funk and are a really good way to learn some base flavors.
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  5. Dan_K

    Dan_K Zealot (515) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado

    As a side note, the Sin Fronterra from Jester King and the Sin Fronterra from Crooked stave were night and day different. I am guessing 10/10 people who tried both blind would not know that they were the "same" beer in terms of recipe.
    riotontheroad likes this.
  6. soughtbygod

    soughtbygod Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2011 California

    you will like them to be more sour over time, over the course of a year I went from liking moderate sours, to extreme puckers, its an acquired taste and it will build...with that being said I recommend you get ahold of some RARE BARREL...Particularly, Another world, Forces Unseen, Map of the sun, Home Sour Home, or Ensorcelled....they are great
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  7. Dan_K

    Dan_K Zealot (515) Nov 8, 2013 Colorado

    Ensorcelled and Home Sour Home will be on tap at GABF and they are on my list to try, thank you.
  8. ClavisAurea

    ClavisAurea Initiate (0) Jul 4, 2008 New York

    Have you tried any of the sour styles from Belgium? Boon Oude Geuze and Lindemans Geueze Cuvee Rene should be easy enough to get a hold of. IMO they are intro sours that are more mildly sour than tooth-enamel removing. They're not expensive either: $10-12 for a 750ml bottle.
    foundersfan1, F2brewers and Dan_K like this.
  9. NCMonte

    NCMonte Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2014 North Carolina

    If you can find some, most all of Wicked Weed's Sour's fall into the milder side of sours. From my discussions with Walt, he doesn't like Sour Sour Sour's, he prefers them on the milder side. Not that they won't make a deeply Sour Sour, but most aren't that sour, ie, Tart of Darkness.
    foundersfan1 and JohnnyMc like this.
  10. Raj

    Raj Disciple (322) Jun 25, 2014 Illinois

    Does anyone know if pH is a good measure of the perceived sourness? Sort of like how ibus may not be ther same as perceived bitterness, if there is malts, sugars etc to balance out the bitterness.
  11. PourMore

    PourMore Initiate (99) Oct 4, 2014 Florida

    Sorry to say I don't know of any metric for sours. But I do have a recommendation. Try beers by Jolly Pumpkin. They have some cherry or green apple character to pretty much all of their beers. Tart but not too sour.

    If you are going down this road, your palate will probably change. Though you may not like the super sour stuff now, you might eventually. If you want to jump right in and force it on your palate, try Belgian varieties of Gueuze and Kriek.
    foundersfan1 likes this.
  12. Relik

    Relik Initiate (107) Apr 20, 2011 Canada (NS)

    The pH scale runs acid to basic from 0-14.
    That being said:
    • 14: liquid drain cleaner
    • 13:bleaches/oven cleaner
    • 12:Soapy Water
    • 11:Ammonia (11.9)
    • 10:Milk of Magnesia(10.5)
    • 9: Toothpaste (9.9)
    • 8: Baking Soda(8.4) /Seawater/Eggs
    • 7: Pure Water
    • 6: Urine (6)/Milk (6.5)
    • 5:Acid Rain (5.6) / Black Coffee (5)
    • 4: Tomato Juice (4.1)
    • 3: Citrus Juice/ Soft Drinks
    • 2: Vinegar( 2.9) /Lemon Juice (2.3)
    • 1: Hydrochloric Acid from stomach lining ( 1)
    • 0:Battery Acid
    As with everything we taste mostly because we haven't the knowledge yet about how our own brain works one can assume that you can have perceived bitter/sweet/salty/sour/umami flavors on everything that crosses our tongues and noses.

    The pH scale is just a measure of the concentrations of Hydrogen ions compared to water.

    The lower the number the the higher the concentration of Hydrogen the stronger the acid.
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  13. azorie

    azorie Champion (877) Mar 18, 2006 Florida

    try some real Belgians and get back to me.:grinning::grinning:

    Duchesse de Bourgogne is very red wine like
    petrus aged pale

    so many real gueuzes to try (lambics), etc

    pricey though.
  14. phillyhops

    phillyhops Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2014 New Jersey

    you should give cuvee des jacobins rouge a shot. Reasonably easy to find and pretty cheap
  15. Raj

    Raj Disciple (322) Jun 25, 2014 Illinois

    Yep. pH measures hydrogen cations in solution, but I seems like that doesn't measure how sour something tastes. So I'm not entirely sure if listing the pH on a bottle of beer tells the consumer anything about how sour the beer is going to be. Like on your scale, soft drinks have the same pH as as citrus juice and a similar pH as vinegar. So the pH doesn't seem to do a good job of capturing the flavors that might balance the sourness in a beer, similar to the discrepancy of IBUs and perceived bitterness.

    I was bored at work so I did a little research: Ramos Da Conceicao Neta ER, Johanningsmeier SD, McFeeters RF. The chemistry and physiology of sour taste--a review. Journal of food science 2007;72:R33-8.

    "one might expect a direct relationship between sour taste and pH. However, human psychophysical and animal physiological studies have shown that organic acids such as acetic and citric acids are more sour than hydrochloric acid at the same pH (Pfaffmann 1959; Koyama and Kurihara 1972; Ganzevles and Kroeze 1987a; Richards 1898; Ugawa and others 1998; Ogiso and others 2000; Lyall and others 2001; Richter and others 2003; Lugaz and others 2005). Beidler (1967) showed that solutions of 20 organic and inorganic acids that produced an equivalent neural response to 5 mM HCl in rats had pH values ranging from 2.11 to 3.14. Likewise, Makhlouf and Blum (1972) found a poor correlation between sour taste of organic acids and stimulus pH using acid-induced salivary secretion as an index of response. Moreover, the pH of various organic acid solutions is considerably different at their observed threshold concentrations (Berg and others 1955; Amerine and others 1965). Altogether, these results indicate that in addition to hydrogen ions, anions and/or protonated (undissociated) acid species play a role in determining sour taste intensity of organic acids."

    Apologies to OP as this quite a digression...
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  16. LittleDog

    LittleDog Initiate (0) Dec 19, 2014 Texas

    To add to your very helpful chart, I would note that each number is 10 times bigger (or smaller depending on direction) than the previous. 5, Acid rain in 10 times as acidic as 6 Urine. It's an exponential scale.

    3, tomato juice is 100 times as acidic as Urine (rounding 4.1 to 4).

    To be super technical, it depends on concentrations as well. Not all Acid Rain or Coffee is the same.

    Again, good guidline chart.

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  17. Relik

    Relik Initiate (107) Apr 20, 2011 Canada (NS)

    But if we are in consciousness that the lower the pH the more acidic the solution is. Correct??

    Then we need to evaluate what we call "sour".
    ive said this before in another fruitless discussion that shall not be named but:

    Sour: adj.
    1: causing or characterized by the one of the four basic taste sensations that is produced chiefly by acids <sour pickles> — compare bitter, salt, sweet

    considering the pH range of a normal beer sitting in the 4 ph range one could assume that anything below 4-2.0 to be somewhat to obviously sour in taste. Thus being a decent baseline for a sourness scale (not a fool proof because as ive stated before taste is subjective my sour may not be your sour).
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  18. JohnnyMc

    JohnnyMc Initiate (0) Feb 14, 2012 Ohio

    Agreed. Found most Wicked Weed Sours to not be over the top in the sour department and more on the funky side. Great beers.
    NCMonte likes this.
  19. Premo88

    Premo88 Poo-Bah (2,143) Jun 6, 2010 Texas

    Jolly Pumpkin

    I'm much like you, relatively new to sours but starting to enjoy them. Every beer I've tried from Jolly Pumpkin has been good, and most of them have been very good. None of them have been overly sour.
    Invinciblejets and foundersfan1 like this.
  20. RBassSFHOPit2ME

    RBassSFHOPit2ME Initiate (0) Mar 1, 2009 California

    Dude. Northern Californians, including East Bay residents can hardly access Rare Barrel, let alone the OP.

    OP - Id suggest Jolly Pumpkin for a wider distribution or very easy to trade for that also is a good match to what you've described. Russian River Supplication & Temptation strike a awesome balance between the funk, sourness and wine barrel. Those shouldn't be hard to trade for and not have to give your first born for...
    #20 RBassSFHOPit2ME, Sep 25, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2015
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  21. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,903) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I am not a chemist, generalities follow, one can add to or correct this.

    PH measures the H+ ion concentration. Phosphoric acid gives H+ ions and phosphate, which is fairly flavor neutral, that is the acid in soft drinks. Lactic acid gives H+ and lactate, the lactate has flavor associated with sourness. Acetic acid gives H+ ion and acetate, acetate has a distinct sour taste and is not desirable in most styles of beer, even most sours (some acetic acid character is needed to make a Flanders red).

    It is not the pH as that is just the measure of H+ ions, but how we perceive the base ions that are left behind. Some acids can be pleasant, like lactic, or unpleasant like Malic, or very off putting like Butyric acid.

    There may be a rating scale somewhere for different acids and how we perceive them as humans. I will leave that for some else to find.
    Raj, cavedave and drtth like this.
  22. brother_rebus

    brother_rebus Meyvn (1,024) Jul 28, 2014 Maine

    an oude bruin may do you well. they aren't always very sour.
  23. jarbraj

    jarbraj Initiate (0) Feb 10, 2014 Georgia

    Athena from creature comforts if you can find it or trade for some
  24. MarshallBirdhouse

    MarshallBirdhouse Devotee (407) Feb 19, 2013 Kentucky

    While delicious and all around amazing.. I wouldn't equate a 4 pack of beer at $19+ as being "pretty cheap".
  25. algebeeric_topology

    algebeeric_topology Zealot (554) Dec 30, 2014 Florida

    Among sours though
  26. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (7,356) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado
    Society Trader

    As mentioned before, try Jolly Pumpkin, not bad, over-carbonated sometimes. Russian River has some very tasty brews. Lost Abbey makes some pretty good brews, as well.

  27. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (7,356) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado
    Society Trader

    Have to mention this brewery as well. I've had my 2nd from this brewery (right now), pretty tasty, with a different take on the style(s). Paradox - The Skully Barrel Series.

  28. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (8,242) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming

    La Folie not on your list??
  29. phillyhops

    phillyhops Initiate (0) Aug 4, 2014 New Jersey

    Its split into singles at my bottle shop for $4.50 each. One of the rare opportunities to buy a sour for less than $15 if you're just getting into the style and not sure if you'll like it
  30. Jhurley1

    Jhurley1 Initiate (0) Jan 14, 2011 Virginia

    Do you know if Rare Barrel bottles can be found outside their facility anywhere in the bay area? If so, where?
  31. captaincoffee

    captaincoffee Poo-Bah (1,834) Jul 10, 2011 Virginia
    Society Trader

    Some bars/breweries will have sour taproom takeovers. Good opportunity to try a few new ones. I drink mostly Belgian lambics, which also range in intensity. I was at Cantillon last week, but they are quite sour. Cuvee Rene is probably a good option for quality/price in a not-overly-sour sour. I did get to Rare Barrel in Berkeley this past summer, and Home Sour Home was really good, but probably not available there. Since you are in Colorado, I'd start by scouring the local sours. Quick Google search found this:
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