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, and 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 for these bugs to 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 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.

Uncle Hops bar at Newtown’s The Bank Hotel offers two sours from Lindemans in Belgium. Bar manager John Furlong says, “It’s been truly amazing to see how people have responded to sour beers ... It’s a real sign of the times when people are no longer satisfied with drinking standard, preservative-filled lagers.”

With a growing interest in organic, natural and artisan products it’s no surprise to see a rising thirst for sour or wild-yeast beers.

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.
The Oak Barrel
Camperdown Cellars
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.
The Oak Barrel

HopDog BeerWorks Alluvial Peach - New South Wales
The Alluvial Peach is a wheat beer aged with fresh yellow peaches for 30 days. It pours cloudy and pale yellow. It has stone fruit and floral aromas. The sourness is light and refreshing. A good introductory sour.
The Oak Barrel
Direct from brewery

The Oak Barrel
152 Elizabeth Street, Sydney
(02) 9264 3022

Camperdown Cellars
140–144 Parramatta Road, Camperdown
(02) 9517 2000

Beer Days
Two Metre Tall
HopDog BeerWorks