Why Do Sours Need Rebranding?

Although it was not a cover story piece, speaking to brewers Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave; Paul Arny from The Ale Apothecary and Dan Carey from New Glarus​, Brewer had more than enough info to write a great piece on coolships in the July/August 2018 issue.

In digging through notes for this week’s “Cover Story Notebook​” we went back through those interviews to share Dan Carey’s thoughts on why calling Sours, ‘sour’ can be such a misnomer.

Carey, for one, doesn’t feel the term is adequate or defining enough.

​”I don’t like calling sour beer, sour because we don’t refer to a Pilsner or an IPA as a ‘Bitter beer,’ he explained. “When we say IPA or German Pilsner we understand what that means. We understand the hopping levels.

​”​I have for years tried to cajole the ​Association on their style guidelines. It’s very illogical to me that they would define a category by saying it has to be a certain color, a certain alcohol content and a certain bitterness, but then when it comes to​ sour ​beers they don’t define the level of acidity.

​”​When I discuss this with them, people dismiss it and say​, ‘Oh well​,​ how would you measure acidity?’​​ “​

​Carey pointed out that anybody who makes wine at home knows how to measure acidity.

​”​It’s really easy it’s a hell of a lot easier than measuring IBUs​,” he said.​​

​He gave an example of someone talking about a sour.

“​​Are you talking about ​0​.2 percent ​Lactic ​Acid or are you talking about 1.5 percent because they’re both sour beers but one taste like battery acid and one is nuanced​,” he said. ​

​Then there is the type of acid​:​ ​Lactic and ​Acetic.

​”​They should define what the definition is​,” Carey said​. ​”​They should say a ​L​ambic​ — for example​ —​ to be in the range of say ​0.5 to 1.5 percent ​Lactic and less than 500 parts per million ​Acetic acid, or ​volatile acidity as they call in the wine industry.​”​

These are very very simple things to measure​, he pointed out​​, and noted that the problem with the whole ​Sour ​genre is what do​es​ ​someone ​mean by a sour beer?

​The other important thing ​Carey pointed out is there’s a whole world of sour beers​.

“Are you going to make ​a European sour ​or are you going to make an American sour ale​,” he pondered​. ​”​Maybe something inspired by the Russian River Brewing.​​

​”​Are you going to make a ​Flanders​-​style brown beer. Are you going to make a ​Lambic​-​style beer. Is it going to be without fruit or with fruit. Is it a Berliner ​Weisse​-​style beer, et cetera​,​ et cetera.

​”​So there’s a whole world of sour beers and each of them will require a different production method.​”​

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