PILSNER The World’s Most Imitated Beer Style


PILSNER The World’s Most Imitated Beer Style

An interesting phenomenon is occurring in the craft beer world. After years of every description of IPAs, fruit beers, milkshakes, spiced beers, and high-alcohol monsters, it has become cool for brewers to get back to their roots. The hot style at many craft breweries these days is Pilsner. Yes, good old authentic Pilsner.

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Because most of the world’s macro beer production focuses on some variation on the style, craft brewers have ignored Pilsners for years. Authentic Pilsners are not only amazing beers, but they are among the most difficult styles to get right. They involve complex brewing and fermentation processes and there’s nothing to hide behind. While you can hide small imperfections in a roasty stout or a hoppy IPA, you can’t in a golden Pilsner. These days, when a brewer wants to show off his or her brewing skills, producing a high-quality Pilsner is the way to do it. Pilsners are also ways for breweries to get back to basics with a clean, straightforward, classic beer style.

Pilsners have a long, storied history and basically changed the world of beer forever. They are among my favorite beer styles and I am also very proud when I brew a good one. So let’s take a closer look at this amazing classic.

The History of Pilsner

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The name Pilsner basically means “of Plzeň” (Pilsen in English) a small town in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. Beer has been brewed in Pilsen since 1295 but the beers were all dark ales of inconsistent quality. To rectify this situation, Pilsen founded a city-owned brewery in 1839 to brew a new style of beer that used bottom-fermenting yeast and was then stored cold in ice caves. This aging process – called lagering – resulted in clearer beers with longer shelf life.

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The brewery brought in Bavarian brewer Joseph Groll who, using this new fermentation technology and paler malts, which were a recent innovation, introduced his first batch of the new beer on October 5 th , 1842. This, the world’s first blonde lager, was called Plzensky Prazdroj or Pilsener Urquell in German. The beer is still made at the same brewery today.

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Paler malts, Pilsen’s very soft water, local Saaz hops and Bavarian lagering resulted in a clear, golden beer that was a sensation. While the old-style dark, murky beers were served in wooden, metal or ceramic mugs, the beautiful golden beer began to be served in glass vessels. It was soon the rage all across Europe. People could not get enough Pilsner. Soon, the style was imitated in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and America.

Styles of Pilsner

Most Pilsners are between 4.0% and 6.0% alcohol and are crisp and hoppy but balanced with maltiness. They tend to be very delicate beers and are best consumed close to their place of origin as they don’t always travel well.

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Czech Pilseners are still made pretty much like they were in 1842. There are variations by brand, but they tend to be a deep golden color with a dense white head, nice clarity, and a soft texture from the very soft Pilsen water, which ranks among the world’s most pure and ion-free waters. This tones down the spicy Saaz hops, which are typically the only variety of hops used in Pilseners. Czech Pilseners are rich yet easy-drinking. Many consider them the best beers in the world.

Brands include Pilsener Urquell, Budweiser Budvar (Czechvar in the United States because of trademark conflicts), Staropramen and Gambrinus.

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German Pilsners – often referred to as simply Pils - are brewed all over Germany – from Munich to Hamburg. They tend to be light straw to golden in color with a white head and a crisper, earthier hoppiness, often due to higher mineral content in the brewing water. They typically use floral noble German hop varieties.

Popular brands include Bitburger, Warsteiner, Holsten, König, Jever, Krombacher, Radeberger, Beck’s and St. Pauli Girl.

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European-style Pilsners from Belgium and the Netherlands often have a slightly sweeter taste and may use non-barley adjuncts. These mass-produced beers are popular but largely undistinguished.

Brands include Stella Artois, Jupiler, Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch.

American Pilsners, and their yeasts, were brought to the new world by mostly German immigrants who then used local water, hops, malts and corn to brew robust Pilsners. Prohibition wiped out most of these brewers and those that survived began making the watered-down, fizzy, yellow macro beers that have dominated the American market since World War II.

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I personally resent Miller Lite referring to itself as a “fine Pilsner beer” when it is neither fine nor a Pilsner. A Bud Light commercial on this year’s Super Bowl tried to diss Miller Lite and Coors for using corn syrup in their beers. They failed to mention that the “dilly dilly” beer uses rice syrup instead. Both corn and rice are mainly used to cut production costs because barley malt is many times more expensive than cereal adjuncts. Blind taste tests have shown that these mass-produced lagers have indistinguishable tastes to the average consumer.

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I have to say, though, that when the Game of Thrones dragon barbequed King Dilly and his merry men at the joust, I toasted the dragon with my glass of Pilsner Urquell.

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The good news is that American craft brewers are embracing the Pilsner style and making some truly fine pilsners. Among the many breweries making excellent examples of the style are: Left Hand Polestar Pilsner, Lagunitas Pils, Oscar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, Crooked Stave Von Pilsner, Firestone Walker Pivo Pils, Victory Prima Pils, Samuel Adams Noble Pils, Deschutes Pine Mountain Pilsner, Boulevard KC Pils, New Belgium Pilsner and North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner.

The Future of the Pilsner Style in America

Even though macro lagers continue to lose more market share each year, they still dominate the beer market and that’s not likely to change. Imported beers are pretty much the same. They have their niche and it’s probably not going away anytime soon.

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Pilsners will make their comeback in the craft beer market, and that is as it should be. We can look for more well-made Pilsners on tap and on the shelves and the spirit of innovation of the craft beer industry will propel the style forward. We’re already seeing Pilsners being made with non-traditional hops and different levels of malt-hop balance. As more beer drinkers find themselves ordering something lighter and more drinkable than Double IPAs and Imperial Stouts, Pilsners will be the beer of choice.

But mostly, people will order Pilsners because they are so damn good! Cheers!


It’s the time of year for Christmas beers!


It’s the time of year for Christmas beers!

Raise a Toast to the Season!

It’s the time of year for Christmas beers


Belgian brewers love opportunities to make special-release beers, so in Belgium, Christmas beers are an annual event at many breweries. The tradition is not limited to Belgium either.


Scandinavia’s tradition of holiday beers goes back to the Vikings, who celebrated the Winter Solstice with Jul (Yule) beers, which each household was required by law to brew. Wassailing (the predecessor to Christmas caroling) was the practice of going from house to house singing songs in exchange for strong beers. If the beer was not strong enough, there were consequences for that house.


Later on, 19th century brewers in Britain, Germany and Belgium traditionally offered stronger beers during the holidays as a “thank you” to their loyal patrons. The Belgians, who already used non-traditional ingredients in their beers, often added fruits, herbs and spices to their holiday offerings.

Christmas beers are less of a style than a tradition. There are hardly two alike, although most are stronger than their year-round counterparts and many have special seasonal ingredients. At my brewery, Bruz Beers, we are releasing five holiday beers this season: Brut La Grande, Figgy Puddin’, Gingerbread Dubbel, Saturnalia, and Belgian Chocolate Stout.


Another style of Belgian holiday beer that goes well at Christmas and New Years is Biere Brut de Flandres – or Champagne beer. These are very pale ales which resembles fine Champagnes and are made using traditional Champagne processes. Deus and Malheur are the two most well-known names. Bruz Beers makes one of the few Biere Bruts in the United States. Brut La Grande is brewed once a year and released at Thanksgiving.


There are lots of great Christmas beers out there – from both European and American craft brewers. No holiday season is complete without enjoying a few of them at your favorite pub or brewery, in front of a roaring fire or on your holiday table.

Raise a toast to the season!


Is it beer? Is it wine? Yes!


Is it beer? Is it wine? Yes!

The Growing Trend of Beer-Wine Hybrids


I have long been both a beer and wine aficionado. So, a few years ago, when I noticed a new style of beverage combining elements of my two favorite drinks, I was gung-ho to taste them. And I wasn’t disappointed!


A growing number of craft breweries are releasing Beer-Wine Hybrids – beers that have wine as a portion of their ingredients, and some of these are nothing short of amazing!

My first experience with a beer-wine hybrid was in Brussels in the late eighties. I had visited the Cantillon brewery – the Holy Grail of Lambic breweries – and had picked up a bottle of Vigneronne, which is Lambic beer fermented in casks with Italian Muscat grapes. Wow! I had never tasted anything like it – it was fantastic! Cantillon also adds tart cherries, raspberries, and other fruits to their beers, but the Muscat grapes were something else.


Years later, I tasted hybrids from Dogfish Head and wine barrel beers from Russian River. These breweries were on the leading edge of the beer-wine hybrid movement.

Elements of Both Beer and Wine

When we talk about beer-wine hybrids, what exactly are we talking about? Well, for starters they are basically beers. In some cases, the beers are aged in used wine barrels – imparting wine flavors and aromas.

In some cases, beers are fermented with wine yeasts, resulting in new and different flavor profiles.

And in other cases, wine grapes, grape juice, or grape must (freshly pressed grapes with skins, stems and juice) are blended with the beer – during or following fermentation. And often, the beer-wine hybrid utilizes all three of these techniques.

Wine Barrel Aging


While a lot of beer is aged in spirits barrels, beer-wine hybrids typically use white or red wine barrels. Freshly emptied barrels are best – providing maximum flavor and aroma. The style of the beer should be matched to a complimentary wine barrel. In addition to wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay, brewers can obtain Port, Sherry, Madeira, Sauternes and other wine varieties with the help of a barrel broker.

The oak and wine notes from the barrel add whole new dimensions of flavor to a beer, and craft brewers are making good use of wine barrels in many ways.

Wine Yeasts

Wine yeasts work and taste quite different than beer yeasts. Ale and lager yeasts easily ferment both complex and simple sugars. Wine yeasts prefer simple sugars and can take forever to ferment out a batch of beer. But, the aromas and flavors produced by wine yeasts can be truly amazing. Wine yeasts can also kill beer yeasts, so mixing the two takes some finesse to work well.

In particular, Champagne yeast is often used to put a dry finish on a beer or for bottle conditioning (when additional sugar and yeast is added at bottling to naturally carbonate the beer in the bottle).

Adding Grapes


Of course, the ultimate beer-wine hybrid has to contain wine grapes in some form. Dried grapes (raisins), wine must, grape juice or even whole grapes are added to the beer in quantities of 20–49 percent.

When grapes and beer ferment together, their flavors bond in very interesting ways. A highly complex and pleasantly different taste profile is created.

And when you combine all three beer-wine techniques – wine barrel aging, wine yeast, and the addition of grapes – the brewer can create magic!

Beer-Wine Hybrid Breweries


While a lot of breweries are now joining the hybrid movement, there are a number of them that pioneered the processes and techniques we see today. These breweries continue to make some amazing blends of beer and wine.

Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, California

Russian River’s founder, Vinnie Cilurzo, grew up in a wine-making family and was a pioneer in wine barrel aging going back to the 1990s.

His barrel-aged beers often incorporate wild yeasts and bacteria typical of Belgian Lambic beers, as well as a range of fruits. These include:

* Supplication – brown ale with cherries aged in Pinot Noir barrels

* Temptation – blonde ale aged with wild yeast in Chardonnay barrels

* Consecration – black ale with blackcurrants aged in Cabernet barrels

Dogfish Head Brewing, Milton, Delaware

Founder Sam Calagione was one of the first large breweries to experiment with putting wine grape juice into beer to achieve levels of complexity and flavor.

* Midas Touch – brewed with barley, Muscat grapes, honey and saffron

* Red & White – Belgian-style Witbier with spices and Pinot Noir juice

* Raison D’Etre – brewed with partially dehydrated green raisins

* Noble Rot – brewed with barley and wheat, botrytis-infected Viognier must, Pinot Gris must – all fermented with a distinct Belgian yeast

* Sixty-One – IPA brewed with California Syrah must

* Mixed Media – a Saison with late-harvest Viognier must


Odell Brewing, Ft. Collins, Colorado

Odell’s Eli Kolodny was inspired to brew a hybrid with Colorado grapes and created:

* Amuste – imperial porter aged with Tempranillo must in red wine barrels

* Jaunt – pale ale aged on oak staves with Riesling grapes

Bruz Beers, Denver, Colorado

Bruz is my brewery. Having tasted a new style of Belgian beer – Deus Champagne Beer, made by Bosteels – I was inspired to brew one here in Colorado. The style is known as Biere Brut de Flandres and ours is called Brut La Grande. There are only a few breweries in the United States making this style of beer.


Brut La Grande is a pale, lightly hopped beer that goes through a three-yeast fermentation process utilizing Belgian ale yeast, Champagne yeast and spirits yeast with additional sugar added with each new yeasting. It is bright, complex and drinkable with well-hidden alcohol (14.8%). Brut La Grande is released once a year just before the holidays.

Based on the success of Brut La Grande, we are in the process of utilizing wine barrels, wine yeasts and grape juice in other hybrid beers.

Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine

Brewmaster Jason Perkins used hybrid beers to attract wine drinkers to the beer world. His sibling beer-wine hybrids are:

Victor – a pale beer with red wine grapes and a two-part fermentation with wine yeast and Belgian ale yeast

Victoria – very similar to her brother but with Chardonnay grapes in place of the red wine grapes


Captain Lawrence Brewing, Elmsford, New York

Owner and head brewer Scott Vaccaro believes in wine barrel aging. His beers include:

* Cuvee de Castleton – a golden ale aged with wild yeast and Muscat grapes in wine barrels

* Rosso E Marone – a Belgian-style Dubbel aged in red wine barrels with red wine grapes and wild yeast

* Golden Delicious – an American Tripel, dry-hopped with Amarillo hops in apple brandy barrels

Other hybrid breweries include Crooked Stave in Denver, Avery in Boulder, New Belgium in Fort Collins, Block 15 in Corvallis, Oregon, The Bruery in Placentia, California, Cascade Barrel House in Portland, Oregon, Stone Brewing in Escondido, California, Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, California, The Commons Brewery in Portland, Oregon and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York.


Many more breweries are entering the wine-beer hybrid ranks every day, which means we all have some interesting tastings waiting for us.

So is it a wine or is it a beer? The answer is yes!


More: http://themoderneater.com/2018/10/is-it-beer-is-it-wine-yes/



Merry Christmas from Belgium!

Christmas beers are a long-standing tradition with Belgian brewers, and the practice of making a special brew for the holidays has quite a history in other parts of Europe and a growing appeal with American craft brewers as well.


Scandinavia's tradition of Christmas beers goes back to the Vikings, who celebrated the Winter Solstice with Jul (Yule) beers, which each household was required to brew by law. Wassailing (the predecessor to Christmas caroling) was the practice of going from house to house and singing songs in exchange for strong beers. If the beer was not strong enough, there were consequences for that house. Later on, 19th Century brewers in Britain, Germany and Belgium traditionally offered stronger beers during the holidays as a "thank you" to their loyal patrons. The Belgians, who already used non-traditional ingredients in their beers, often added fruits, herbs and spices to their holiday offerings.


Beers like Gouden Carolus Noel, Stille Nacht and Scaldis Prestige bring unique flavor profiles to the Christmas season. When Stella Artois was first introduced in 1926, it was a special Christmas beer. "Stella" means "star" - the Star of Bethlehem.

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Christmas beers are less of a style than a tradition. There are hardly two alike, although most are stronger than their year-round counterparts and often have some combination of fruits, spices or flavorings added to give them a seasonal festiveness. 

Another type of Belgian holiday beer that goes well at Christmas or New Years is Biere Brut or Champagne beer. These are very pale beers that resemble fine champagnes and are made using traditional champagne processes. Deus and Malheur are the two most well-known names, and Infinium - a collaboration between Samuel Adams and Weihenstephan - is also excellent.

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There are lots of great Christmas beers out there and no holiday season is complete without enjoying a few of them on these cold winter nights or at your holiday table. Raise a toast to the season!



Saison - Belgium's Farmhouse Ales

Once a farm-brewed beer for migrant workers, Saisons are now brewed year-round in Belgium and have become popular with many craft breweries in the U.S.

Agrarian Roots

Saisons originated in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, especially in the Hainaut district, southeast of Brussels. The name Saison means "season" in French. Saisons were farmhouse ales brewed by farmers for their personal consumption and for "saisoniers" - seasonal farm workers.

They were traditionally brewed in the cool months - from September through March - then stored in cellars for consumption during the summer and at harvest time. As the popularity of these beers grew, farm brewing gave way to year-round production in artisanal breweries that distributed the beers well beyond their agricultural places of origin.

The Saison Style

Because they were originally brewed on farms, there are many variations on the style with no hard-and-fast style guidelines. The style became more defined as larger breweries began producing it, although there are still many variations to this day. Saisons are crisp, dry, refreshing and hoppy with a golden to bronze color, slight haze and dense white head. Their effervescence is the result of natural carbonation (bottle conditioning) - traditionally in champagne bottles. They are dry and well-attenuated with a quenching acidity. One thing all Saisons share is their characterful yeasts, which give the beers a lactic tartness, phenolic spiciness and complex fruit esters. The warmer the fermentation, the more pronounced these characteristics are.

Food Friendly

Saisons are very versatile and pair well with a wide variety of foods. They are especially good with smoked, cured and grilled meats and full-flavored cheeses. The spiciness and bold flavors of Saisons may overwhelm lighter dishes but are excellent with spicy or intensely flavored foods, fish soups and stews and Asian or Middle Eastern dishes. They also go well with robust salads and other summer dishes.

Saison Tasting Panel

The Bruz tasting panel recently tasted a number of commercial Saisons from both Belgian and North American breweries.

The panel thought Saison Dupont was as good as ever. It has been touted by some as one of the best beers in the world - largely due to its unique yeast, which has been described as "a yeast among yeasts - touched by God." Another panel favorite was Funkwerks Saison, which was flavorful, well-balanced and very drinkable, with a depth of complexity. Ommegang's Hennepin was also a standout - intricate and complex with a smooth thirst-quenching character. Firestone Walker's Opal was a different, but very pleasant, interpretation of the style and Crooked Stave's Surette Provision Saison was complex, flavorful and well-crafted. Our Bruz Beers Winter Solstice Saison was tart and citrusy with a lively flavor profile and a touch more alcohol than most. The Lost Abbey's Saison Blanc was cleanly made and tasty, but lacked the intense character of many of the other examples. Fantome's Pissenlit (dandelion infused) Saison was dull and disappointing.

Join us as we take in-depth looks at other Belgian styles in the weeks and months to come as part of our ongoing Belgian Style blog series.




Belgian Tripels - Divine Golden Ales

When Pilsener Urquell introduced its clear golden lager beer in 1842, it started a revolution in European beer. Beers no longer had to be dark and cloudy or be hidden in pewter or earthenware drinking vessels. Over the decades that followed, the clear golden beers began to be served in glasses and became the rage in Europe. Everyone wanted pilsners. Darker beers - including many of the great traditional beers of Belgium - were waning in popularity. Belgian brewers needed to find ways to compete.

In the early 1930s, brewing scientist and yeast specialist Hendrik Verlinden of the Drie Linden brewery experimented with a golden ale to compete with pilsners and other popular golden lagers. In 1932, he released Witkap Pater, a tripel ale. He also helped the Westmalle Trappist brewery develop their Tripel, which they had been working on for some time.

A monk takes a reading in the Westmalle Trappist brewhouse

A monk takes a reading in the Westmalle Trappist brewhouse

At the time, it was commonplace for Trappist breweries to name their beers based on strength with the designations enkel (single), dubbel and tripel - corresponding to 3, 6 and 9 percent alcohol. All three strengths would have been darker beers. When Westmalle released its first Tripel in 1934, it was a strong golden ale - and proved to be a real game-changer. In 1956, Westmalle changed the recipe slightly to include more hops and it has remained unchanged since then. To this day, many consider Westmalle Tripel to be the standard by which all other tripels are measured. And there are many to be measured - from Trappist, abbey, secular and American craft breweries.


Tripels are strong beers that are bright yellow to deep golden in color with a big, dense, creamy ivory head. They have a spicy phenolic, fruity and complex aroma with a distinct Belgian yeast character. They aremalty and evenly balanced with hops and alcohol. Tripels get their rich maltiness from a high percentage (as high as 100%) of Belgian pilsner malt with a small percentage of specialty malts such as aromatic and light crystal. Some tripels - like Tripel Karmeliet - add small portions of wheat and oats as well. Tripels also include as much as 20 percent Belgian candi (beet) sugar to lighten the body of the beer and produce a dry finish. Tripels are typically in the 8 to 12 percent alcohol range. They have a complex, rich, sweet, malty flavor that finishes dry and clean.

Tripels are hoppy in their aroma with a substantial bitterness - up to 40 IBUs. The hops and the malt are generally in balance with additional bitterness provided by the alcohol, which tends to stay well-hidden. Hops are typically floral and herbal varieties from Germany, England, France, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Belgian yeast definitely leaves its mark on tripels with spicy phenols (clove, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon) and fruity esters (banana, apple, pear, apricot). Some brewers add small amounts of actual spices to their brew kettles for added depth of complexity. Most Belgian tripels are bottle conditioned (naturally carbonated in the bottle), which produces a soft texture, gentle carbonation, big pillowy head and added complexity.

Tripels are majestic beers. Both simple and complex - with high alcohol and restrained intensity - tripels are truly divine!



Sour Beers - The World's Most Interesting Beer Styles

While IPAs still top the charts as the most popular beer style in the US, there is little doubt that sour beers are the up and coming genre of beer. Rare on this side of the pond only a few years ago, craft breweries large and small are now cranking out amazing sour beers. Sour imports from Europe - especially Belgium - are arriving in record numbers and supply is not keeping up with demand. In this post, we will take a high-level look at the range of sour beers. In future posts, we will focus on specific styles of sours.

What are Sour Beers and Why Are They So Popular?

Sour - or high-acid beers - actually go back hundreds of years with origins in Belgium, Germany and England. What gives them their distinct tart flavors and complexity are various combinations of wild yeasts and beneficial bacteria strains. 

Hops were not always the dominant flavoring agent of beer that they are today. The brewer needed something to offset the sweetness of the malt in their beers. Blends of bitter herbs, called gruit, were used to that purpose. Gruit often contained hops and eventually hops replaced the other bitter herbs. But, some Belgian and German brewers learned how to sour their beers, which also served to offset the sweetness of the malt. Because sour beers are labor-intensive and require long maturation times, they remained regional specialties - until recently. 

A Wealth of Microflora

Most beers are fermented with pure strains of brewers yeast and brewers go to great lengths to keep those strains pure. Sour beers, on the other hand, rely on wild yeasts and bacteria for fermentation. These microorganisms give sour beers their distinct tartness, funkiness and complexity. Where do these microorganisms come from? They are in the air everywhere - especially during the summer months. Go into a vineyard. The white powdery stuff on the grapes is wild yeast. It's actually hard to find any place on earth that does not have colonies of wild yeast and bacteria in abundance. In the days before brewers understood yeast, bacteria and microorganisms in general, they didn't have to seek out wild microflora; the microflora found the beer. Probably the only thing that kept the wild stuff from souring all beers was the fact that the tartness and funkiness take a while to develop and most beers were consumed young.

Sour beers get their tartness from strains of lactic bacteria - predominately Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Pediococcus cerevisiae. They get their barnyard funk from various strains of Brettanomyces yeast, often referred to as "brett." In addition to these, many sours contain other microflora as well. In Belgian Lambic breweries, great care is taken to not disturb the environment of the brewery for fear that the unique combination of microflora might be altered or lost altogether, thus changing the unique personality of that brewery's beers. 

Brewing Sour Beers

Sour beers are brewed pretty much like regular beers - with various malted and unmalted grains, water, hops and yeast. The magic happens during extended fermentation. After primary fermentation, during which most of the beer's fermentable sugars are metabolized by the yeast, wild yeasts and bacteria continue to feed on trace sugars, proteins and any other nutrients to be found in the beer. This nutrient-poor environment stresses these microorganisms, causing the production of various compounds that give the beer its tartness and funkiness. This is a slow process that can take from 18 to 36 months, although modern brewers use various techniques like kettle souring and special yeast/bacteria strains to speed up the souring process. 

Sour beer fermentation takes place in stainless fermenters or, more traditionally, oak barrels. When barrels are used, the souring microflora imbed themselves in the wood of the cask and that cask becomes an ongoing vessel for the production of sour beers, adding flavor and complexity. Sour barrels are highly prized by brewers.

Following extended fermentation, the sour beers are often blended with other sour or non-sour beers. Blending is important because the souring process is often inconsistent - with significant variations from barrel to barrel. Blending allows the brewer to produce a consistent product year after year. Once blended, the beers are often bottled and given additional aging. 

Types of Sour Beers

Belgian sours are undoubtably the most classic styles of high-acid beers, with several major style categories. Lambic beers from the Senne Valley are intensely sour and very funky beers made from a combination of unmalted wheat and barley malt. They typically get up to three years of aging before they are released and are often blended. Some lambics are also mascerated with various fruits - notably tart cherries and raspberries - a practice that pre-dates hops as the primary flavoring agent for the beers.  

West and East Flanders ales are other styles of Belgian sour beers. Flanders Red ales from West Flanders are deep red beers with distinct stone fruit flavors, lactic souring and a touch of vinegar on the palate. Flanders Brown ales from East Flanders are darker, more brown, and maltier.

A number of other types of Belgian ales, including the Trappist beer Orval, employ wild yeasts and bacteria to impart a lighter citrusy tartness to the aroma and flavor profiles.

German Sours include Berliner Weisse - a low-alcohol wheat beer with a tart and effervescent profile. Berliner Weisse was dubbed the "Champagne of the North" by Napoleon's troops because it reminded them of Champagne. Another German sour - Gose - has a light tartness and a bit of salt, which enhances it.

American sours are the new kids on the block, but are fueling the current public interest in sour beers in the U.S. While some American sours are modeled after their European counterparts, the creativity inherent in the American beer renaissance is driving the creation of whole new styles of sour beers utilizing innovative ingredients and specialized brewing techniques.

We will explore all these styles of sour beers in detail in future blog posts.

Sour Beers are Here to Stay

Not too many years ago, the tradition of sour beers in Belgium and elsewhere was in danger of dying out. The beers took a long time to make, were labor intensive and sold for the same price as more ordinary beers. The American beer renaissance changed all that by driving U.S. demand for imported sours while creating a strong market for American versions of sour ales. This new generation of sour beer lovers will no doubt sustain the sour market for many years to come.