When some people hear the term “sour” beer, the instinctive reaction is puckering of the lips and a polite, yet affirmative, “no thank you.” The idea of sipping something that presents acidic, pungent and tangy is a hard sell for some, especially for the everyday Miller drinkers where the mountains have to stay blue and the flavor is as bland as the packaging itself.
For the longest time, beers were sour in nature primarily due to the lack of proper sanitization. This lack of decontamination, and the only storage for beer being wooden barrels, brought with it the invitation for bacteria and wild yeast to enter in the beer, causing it to present sour characteristics. Only with the introduction of proper sanitization and steel holding tanks in the late 19th century did we see the shift from sour characteristics to a smoother, more inviting flavor of beer.
The bacteria and wild yeast responsible for causing the funky aromas and tart-like flavors are lactobacillus, pediococcus and brettanomyces. Lactobacillus is a bacterium that helps turn sugar into lactic acid, the same acid that helps make your yogurt taste a bit sour. Pediococcus is a bacterium of the same family that can metabolize without oxygen and is often used in many Belgian-style beers to add acidity. This same bacteria, if left for too long, can create diacetyl, a compound and off-flavor found in some spoiled beers that provides a buttery taste. Wild yeast, brettanomyces, or brett for short, is naturally seen as a beer spoiler as it can add Band-Aid-type flavors and aromas, but when utilized correctly, it can provide a nice, balanced layer of earthiness to a beer.
Still, some might wonder why anyone would intentionally introduce these elements to beer. The answer is found in trying this style of brew for one’s self. This funky style has been on the rise over the years with no signs of slowing down, and is rapidly presenting itself as a strong contender in the greater DFW area. Although it may take a few sips to acquire a desire for another pint, you might just be surprised how well you enjoy and savor as well as need a little funk in your life. Here are a few local sour brews you can try for yourself, either at home or at the brewery.
Community Beer Company’s Brett’s Get It OnFunky IPA, 6.2% ABV
1530 Inspiration Drive (Design District)
This funky delight is a great starter for those seeking to venture out from their typical pint of IPA to the wild side, as this ale is brewed with wild yeast, brettanomyces and plenty of American and New Zealand hops. Each sip provides you with flavors of juicy berries, lemon zest and a little watermelon sweetness complemented by notes of pine and a fresh bouquet of flowers. There is a light hop bite and tart character to it that drinks smooth and balanced with a touch of funk. The seasonal beer is available in canned six-packs throughout North Texas and on tap on the Community’s taproom.
Shannon Brewing Company’s Pow Pow PurpleSour wheat, 6.2% ABV
818 N. Main St., Keller
This wheat beer is packed full of sour power and fermented with blackberries and blueberries to create a gorgeous dark purple color and aromas of fresh-picked berries, grape skins and a hint of lemon peel. Initial sip brings with it flavors of juicy blackberries with some lime present and a nice subtle sweetness that brings about balance with a smooth, tart finish. Comes in six-pack cans and is on draft at the Shannon taproom.
Martin House Brewing Company’s Salty LadyGose, 5% ABV
220 S. Sylvania Ave., Fort Worth
This is a German-style sour that's soured in a kettle with a lactic culture with added salt from around the world. This sour pours out a nice golden hue that smells like pickle juice and sea salt with notes of lemon peel. As bizarre as this beer may sound, the flavor is uniquely delicious, with a tangy pickle and salty landscape added with hints of lemon zest, coriander and black pepper. Canned and sold in six-packs throughout DFW and served fresh at the Martin House taproom.
Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Play DateSour blonde ale, 5.2% ABV
2823 St. Louis St. (Deep Ellum)
and 611 University Drive, Fort Worth
Play Date is another golden-hued spectacle that is kettle-soured and fermented with Medjool dates providing aromas of lemon peel, fresh watermelon, bubblegum and cherries with hints of cucumber and pepper. Each sip floods the palate with flavors of sweet melons, lemon zest and a pack of Big League Chew balanced by notes of pickles and tart cherries. This sour blonde is available throughout DFW in canned six-packs and in the Deep Ellum and Fort Worth taprooms.
Division Brewing Company’s Elder BrambleSour ale, 6.8% ABV
506 E. Main St., Arlington
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Standing a little taller in the ABV level than most sour beers, while being brewed with fresh blackberries and bramble bush leaves, give this beer a reddish, purplish color. Each whiff provides an eccentric tart, berry-like aroma and earthy characters, with balancing hints of fruity sweetness showing up at the tail end. Flavors of tart blackberries, black pepper and grape juice reveal themselves on the initial sip while finishing off with a balanced, subtly sweet, juicy attribute and hop bitterness. This sour is a draft-only beer available at the Division Brewing taproom.
Collective Brewing Project’s Doom SlayerCherry ale, 5% ABV
112 St. Louis Ave., Fort Worth
Collective is one of the leaders and major players of the DFW sour beer movement with a strong focus on sour and wild beers using the latest sour brewing equipment. This light, copper-colored brew is a mixed cultured anomaly being fermented with several different strains of bacteria. Aromas of wild cherries, oak and earthy-funky characters provide flavors of cherry juice, apricots, fresh herbs, with a moderate funk feel that finishes off dry and refreshing. Available in 16.9-ounce bottles throughout DFW and at the Collective Brewing Project taproom.