Homebrew: Tasting comparison of sour ales

It is finally time to post some tasting impressions of the ‘plain’ and ‘berry’ version of the sour ale I brewed about 1.5 years ago. I’ve had a couple of bottles of both during the winter, and they are interesting beers. I’m not a big fan of sour ale, but I actually like the plain version. The berry version has otherwise been quite nice as well, but it has had a strange aftertaste that really takes away from the drinkability. We’ll see if it is still present in the beer today. I added berries to the majority of the batch (~12 liters), and only bottled six 33cl bottles of the pre-berry version. This was a mistake I’ve now realized, as I’m already down to my last bottle of the plain version. So, note to self: if I ever brew something similar in the future, bottle half the batch before adding any flavorings. All in all it was an interesting experiment, that I hope to repeat at some point. Right now though my priorities are on getting our new homebrewery up and running, so that we can start brewing again. Anyways, let’s see how the sours taste.


Sour Ale
The beer pours crystal-clear (quite a difference to the extremely cloudy wort resulting from the turbid mash) and with a deep golden-amber color (reminds me of apple juice). The aroma is quite tart, with (what I guess is) lactic acid lending the sour tones. There are some fruity tones present as well, which again bring my thoughts to apple juice and cider. A slight funkiness in the aroma as well, but overall it is very ‘clean’ for a (pseudo-)lambic. The flavour is also tart, but by no means as sour as many commercial examples of the style. This one clocked in at a pH of 3.7, which is relatively high for a sour ale. This suits me fine though, as I really don’t like the mouth-drying sourness of some lambics. Tones of apple, grains and slight citrus are present in the flavour. The finish is surprisingly sweet (the FG was 1.010), but it goes well with the mild sourness. This reminded me a lot of a tart apple cider, and I’m actually positively surprised over how this one turned out. A real shame this was my last bottle. How does the Berry version compare then?


Berry Sour
The beer pours clear and with a pretty red color and a pink foam head. While the plain version had a very clean aroma, this one is much more funky. The aroma is more aggressively sour and funky, with a slight cellary/musty twang to it. Behind this, there are very evident tones of raspberry as well. The blueberries are more hidden, even thought I added three times as much compared to the raspberries. The berries are nice, but I think I prefer the clean cider-like tones of the original. The flavour is slightly more sour than the original, perhaps as a result of the added fermentables and the acids in the berries. Raspberry is dominating the flavour, but there are some tones of apple, blueberries and cherry in the background. The aftertaste is drier than the original, and it is unfortunately plagued by a slightly sharp and musty aftertaste. Not really sure what has caused it, maybe mold or the berries themselves? Would be interesting to hear opinions from somehow who actually loves sour beer. Anyways, not a bad beer, but I would find it more enjoyable if it was a little less sour and funky, and the berry flavors were cleaner.

If I were to brew another sour, I would also be more careful with introducing oxygen. The beer had a thick pellicle the whole one-year fermentation (sign of oxygen), and I think especially the berry version might have some tones of acetic acid.

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