Plenty of breweries make an occasional Sour Ale, but the country’s best tart brews usually come from Sour Ale specialists — breweries that live and breathe mixed fermentation and oak aging!
What makes a brewery a true specialist? It can be hard to pin down, but for this list, we followed a few simple rules:
More than half of their releases are some kind of Sour Ale.
They make at least SOME traditional styles.
When you take a sip, you pucker up! At least a little...
That’s it! So without further ado, here are 10 of our favorite American Sour Ale specialists!
Urban Family Brewing - Seattle, Washington
Seattle is home for us here at Tavour, so of course we had to start with a hometown hero. If you ever find yourself in the soggy Northwest, an afternoon spent sampling Urban Family’s tart treats is a must. That’s what Sour fans here in Jet City do.
In fact, this crew is so beloved in the city, they had to relocate to a larger space in 2019! Now they’re in the Ballard neighborhood’s ‘brewery row,’ but there’s no way this crew will get outshined by their many neighbors. Seattle Magazine says they make the Best Sour Beers in the City!
If you can get to the taproom, order a flight and taste the whole rainbow-hued spectrum of UF’s talents. If you’re looking for bottles, some of their best-loved creations include The Lady Dry-Hopped Golden Ale and Guava Dawn Wild Ale.
de Garde Brewing - Tillamook, Oregon
Beautiful beers on the spectacular Oregon coast — that’s what you’ll find at de Garde. Okay, maybe they’re not actually ON the beach, but they’re pretty close. And, once you get a sip of their sour prowess, you’ll forget all about the surf and sand.
The brewers at de Garde inoculate all their beers naturally with local, wild yeast! Then, they ferment and condition their beers on oak for an average of 2 years — some go as long as 5! To Sour Ale geeks, beer like that is worth traveling for. That’s why Willamette Week thinks de Garde might just be the coast’s most famous brewery!
If you can find a bottle, try the Hose Gose, The Purple American Wild Ale aged in wine barrels with raspberries, or Cherry Raz Bu Berliner.
The Rare Barrel - Berkeley, California
The team at The Rare Barrel is on a mission: they’re trying to discover the ultimate barrel of beer. How will they do that? Volume!
They have hundreds of barrels of beer slowly aging in their warehouse, and they occasionally invite friends, brewers, and Sour Ale fans to join them in a search. They taste barrel after barrel, always looking for that ‘dream barrel’ or Sour beer.
Will they ever find it? Who knows! But, the search is yielding some delicious results! Their tart brews earned them a spot as one of Draft Magazine’s25 Breweries You Should Know!
Next time you’re in the City by the Bay, take the BART over to Berkeley for a sip of Ensorcelled Wild Ale with Raspberries, Impossible Soul Golden Sour with Cherries, or Cosmic Dust Sour Ale with Hibiscus.
Jester King Brewery - Austin, Texas
Talking about American Sour Ales without bringing up Jester King is like discussing heavyweight boxing with no mention of Muhammed Ali. It simply can’t be done.
They were among the first in the U.S. to adopt the Wild Ale style, and they grow many of their ingredients on their sprawling 165-acre property. The Austin Chronicle even praised JK for ‘Changing the world - one beer at a time.’
If you can make it out to the farm, try whatever limited-edition, specialty beer they happen to have on tap. If you can’t visit, keep an eye out for bottles of Funk Metal Sour Ale, Das Wunderkind Saison, and Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout. Yeah, Black Metal is a Dark Beer, but it’ll still make you pucker up, buttercup!
Side Project started as an offshoot of the beloved Perennial Artisan Ales, but head brewer Cory King’s mastery of the tart arts soon propelled the brewery to solo acclaim.
Now, they’re arguably the more sought-after of the two — they made Vinepair’s list of the 35 Most Important Breweries of the Decade (2010s)! The only problem with Side Project beer is that it’s incredibly hard to find. The small-batch beers barely leave the brewery, and outside of Missouri, most people in search of a sip wind up scouring the beer-geek trading boards.
But if you’re lucky, you might be able to get your paws on something like Fuzzy American Wild Ale with Peaches, Balaton Brown Ale with Cherries, or Merci American Wild Ale.
Casey Brewing and Blending - Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Before Casey Brewing opened a taproom, the only way to get new releases was to buy tickets and go on a tour. It was a system they had to adopt when hundreds of people started showing up for every release day.
They even had Sour Ale fans fighting in the parking lot over their place in line! Now that they’ve opened an actual taproom, they’re gaining more fans still. Thrillist called them one of the Hottest Breweries in America for 2019!
If you have a chance at ANY bottle from Casey, you should absolutely snap it up. Especially if it’s something from their Casey Family Preserves series like the Montmorency Cherry. Or, pick up a bottle of East Bank Wild Ale, Fruit Stand Farmhouse Ale, or Funky Blender Farmhouse Ale.
Hill Farmstead Brewery - Greensboro, Vermont
Not many breweries in the U.S. can claim a historical connection like Hill Farmstead. When founder Shaun Hill opened his doors in 2010, he became the 7th consecutive generation in his family to live and work that land!
Even the brewery’s logo comes from a sign that once hung in Shaun’s great great great grandfather’s tavern in the early 1800s, just up the hill from where the brewery is now.
Plan Bee is a rare thing in America: an actual Farmhouse Brewery! Their mission? To make 100% New York State Beer, meaning they source every ingredient from within state lines.
But, they go well beyond that by actually growing many of the ingredients right on their own property! And eventually, they want to produce everything in their brews themselves!
They aren’t quite there yet, but they get closer every year. Vinepair even called them out as one of the nation’s Best Estate Beer Breweries! If you want a taste of their truly local flavors, reach for their flagship Barn Beer American Wild Ale, or try a sip of Amour Strawberry Sour.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find one of their hyper-limited brews like Bourbon Barrel Aged Breakfast American Wild Ale with Blueberries!
Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales - Denver, Colorado
Black Project might be the least known brewery on this list, but that’s only because their batches are so tiny that their beers rarely leave Denver.
Don’t be fooled! This crew might fly under that radar, but their Sours rival the best in the country. In fact, in Paste Magazine’s Sour and Wild Ale blind tasting, Black Project’s Peacemaker Wild Ale beat 142 other entries to take the #1 spot!
If you can find that beer, you should snatch it up without a second thought. Otherwise, look for Dreamland Sour Ale or something from their heavily fruited Magic Lantern Gose series.
Cascade started experimenting with Sour Ales way back in 2005, before most U.S. beer drinkers were even aware of the style. By 2010, they’d opened the Cascade Barrel House, the country’s first 100% dedicated ‘House of Sour.’
If you’re looking for a brew that will knock your sour socks off, look no further. Fans celebrate Cascade for their powerfully puckering Sour Ales.
Try their Noyaux Sour Ale with raspberry and apricot, Kriek Sour Ale with cherries, or The Vine American Wild Ale fermented with white wine grape juice.
More and more Sour Ale specialists are popping up all the time in the U.S., and that’s fantastic. We could easily list dozens more Sour breweries to check out. But, whether you’re just getting into Sour Beer, or you’re a long-time fan, you can’t go wrong with any of these ten titans of tart!
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Remember IBUs? The “International Bitterness Unit” once appeared on beer labels and bar menus everywhere as the globally agreed-upon measurement for how bitter a brew is. But, as you may have noticed, it’s become an increasingly rare sight over the past few years. In fact, there’s a chance you didn’t see a single IBU in your last craft beer delivery, or store trip. There’s a reason for that, and it has a lot to do with how far craft beer has progressed.