If you’ve never tried a sour or wild-yeast beer, then let go of any expectations; it tastes like no other. Sours are tart and acidic, and are often compared to the Warhead or Sour Worm lollies of your childhood. Put them on your list of things to drink this summer – a good sour beer is food-friendly, complex, engaging and importantly, damn refreshing.

Bacteria, such as lactobacillus and pediococcus and yeast such as brettanomyces, cause the idiosyncratic taste of sour beer. Referred to as “wild yeasts” in the brewing business they are unpredictable. Improved sanitation methods during the brewing process have removed them from modern brewing. Like all brewers’ yeast, wild yeasts ferment sugar, but rather than creating alcohol they primarily produce acid, giving these beers their sour quality.

Traditionally, wild yeast entered the beer naturally when brewers manipulated airflow to increase the chance that yeast would grow. With advances in science, modern brewers can create the perfect environment in which these bugs can thrive.

Commercial lagers are often celebrated for how easily they go down, and because they quench a thirst. They also pair extremely well with pizza. A sour, on the other hand, could leave you puckering, but offers the same refreshment as real lemonade. The crisp and acidic palate causes salivation and stimulates your appetite. A good sour is more like drinking a nice bottle of wine and goes well with food as varied as kimchi, bratwurst or creamy cheeses.

Sours are most associated with old Belgian breweries such as Cantillon and Rodenbach. Other European countries have their own traditional versions such as Berliner Weisse Beer from Germany and aged London Porters from England. In America, sours have long been popular. Noted breweries include The Rare Barrel in San Francisco and Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont.

In Australia the movement has been slower to take off, but is gaining momentum through bastions such as Two Metre Tall in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania. Its range of beers and ciders uses 100 per cent Tasmanian ingredients, and includes the Sour Cherry, Derwent Valley Aromatic Spelt and Cleansing ales.

The Local Taphouse in St. Kilda offers local and imported sours on draught and in bottles. General manager Justin Joiner says, “Sour beers can be completely polarizing … we find most people prefer the more tart beers than really sour beers. Good ones were quite hard to come by for a while, but more are becoming available. The demand is definitely growing.”

Two Metre Tall Derwent Valley, Aromatic Spelt Ale – Tasmania
This ale pours a light reddish-brown and cloudy. The nose has aromas of sour green apples and spice. The palate is lemony and spicy. It’s perfect hot-weather beer.
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Slowbeer
Direct from brewery

Lindemans Cuvée René Oude Gueuze – Belgium
A very traditional beer, the label states emphatically: “brewed with wild yeast from the surrounding air”. The beer pours pale golden-brown. Complex and interesting aromas with a sharp, dry, acidic taste. Bring a bottle opener, it’s sealed with cork.
Slowbeer
McCoppins
Prince Wine Store
Blackhearts & Sparrows

La Sirène Wild Saison – Victoria
Refermented and aged with wild brettanomyces yeast, the Wild Saison is a beer for the adventurous. It pours golden with a lot of sediment. The nose is strong with yeast, and citrus. While not overly sour the beer does have a pleasant tang with citrus and cloves.
Prince Wine Store Essendon
The Local Taphouse
Blackhearts & Sparrows
Slowbeer
Direct from brewery

The Local Taphouse
184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East

Prince Wine Store (Essendon)
80 Primrose Street, Essendon

Blackhearts & Sparrows
blackheartsandsparrows.com.au
Six locations across Melbourne

McCoppins
165 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Slowbeer
468 Bridge Road, Richmond

Two Metres Tall
2mt.com.au

La Sirène
lasirene.com.au