How Sour Beers are Made at Hi-Wire Brewing

If you’ve never tasted a sour beer, hold on, because you’re in for quite an experience. Push your IPA or lager aside, and grab that fruity, sour beer you’ve been eyeing. This is your sign. And chances are, your life (and your tastebuds) will never be the same. 

As the name suggests, these beers are sour, so Warhead and sour Skittles lovers, you’ll be right at home. Your first sip will no doubt be a bit of a shock to the palate, but after a few sips, sour beers hook you with their delicious and bright flavors. These beers are nice entryway beers for wine drinkers, go great with food, and will help breakup your regular fridge full of hop bombs. 

So beer lovers and sour newbies, let’s dive into what makes sour beers so awesome. 

What is sour beer?

Sour beer is a bit of a broad category with a range of styles that highlight different acidity levels. You might sip on a sour where the tartness is more subtle, giving you that feeling of refreshment. But there are also sours out there that will make you squint your eyes and pucker right up with one sip. 

Sour beers are not completely siloed from other beer styles either. In fact, sours stem from the standard yeast strains of most ales and lagers, but there is a distinct difference. Sours prefer “wild” yeasts, and they love bacteria like lactobacillus, which is found in some of our favorite fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. 

What does sour beer taste like?

Let’s chat about taste, because let’s be real, it’s what we all care about most! Some sour beers you taste will lean into sweeter, fruitier flavor profiles, while others will be an all out sour punch. Whichever side of the spectrum a sour beer might fall on, their common denominator is their distinct, funky flavor. And sours, believe it or not, have a lot of variety. Here are three types:

Lambic – A super sour, spontaneously fermented treat from Belgium, whose brewers include specific fruit to temper the acidity. Lambic is unique from most other beers in that it is fermented through exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria as opposed to exposure to carefully cultivated strains of brewer’s yeast.

Berliner Weisse – This style is a dry and tart wheat beer with low alcohol content and fizz for easy drinking. Its two main components are wheat and the naturally occurring bacteria known as Lactobacillus, which gives the Berliner Weisse its classic acidity.

Gose – Hailing from Goslar, Germany, a gose is similar to Berliner Weisse in some ways — like its wheat malt and low alcohol content. But what really sets this style apart is its use of coriander and sea salt, which you’ll taste in our Hi-Wire Gose. Brewed with Himalayan Salt, this gose is tart, supremely drinkable and balanced with a complex fruit character. 

How sour beers are made at Hi-Wire Brewing 

If you ask our brewers, they’ll tell you that sour beer is really where the science of brewing drops off and the magic happens. 

Here at Hi-Wire Brewing, we clean ferment our sour beers and then transfer them into reused wine barrels to age. Fun fact, we’ve had all of our sour barrels for 6-7 years!

Our beer usually sits in the barrels for at least 18 months. After aging for the right amount of time, we add more ingredients to the beer to strengthen the flavors. Some brewers will age their sour beers with their ingredients mixed in at the beginning, but we don’t, because we like to give the beer some time to sit in the barrels first. This gives us time to find out what the beer tastes like and from there, we figure out what ingredients it will pair well with. 

Another factor that comes into play with sour beers is temperature. Some breweries have rooms that are perfectly temperature controlled so there’s no fluctuation at all. But at our Hilliard location, we go against the norm.

At Hilliard, we don’t utilize temperature control, because we love the movement we get in our beers throughout the seasons. In our oak barrels, we see a lot of movement in our beer, in and out of the oak, as temperatures warm up and cool down during the year. And as a result, we get some really fantastic flavors. One flavor we get out of our base beer, and we contribute it to the natural temperature change of our facility, is a muscadine flavor. This flavor is mainly seen in our sour blonde. The microflora (or bacteria) in the barrels combined with the interaction with temperature gives us this unique flavor that is one of a kind.

Hi-Wire Brewing sour beers to sip on

If you’re feeling brave and want to try a sour for the first time or if you’re already on the sour beer bandwagon, here’s a roundup of some of our Hi-Wire favorites to try.

1.Pink Lemonade Session

A summertime favorite. This incredibly crushable and refreshing fruited sour beer was brewed with some of our favorite summer ingredients. Raspberry fruit sweetness is balanced with just the right amount of lemony zip from lemon peel and nostalgic candied-lemon aromas from lemongrass.

2. Cherry Red Hot Sour Ale 

The newest addition to our lineup of sours. This tart wheat ale brewed with cherries, cayenne, cinnamon, and vanilla is sweet, tart, and hot. Sip it slowly or crush it — this fruity and sour ale will leave you smiling wide.

3. Estatoe Path Sour Golden

Our Estatoe Path Sour Golden is a delicious farmhouse ale re-fermented on local honey. It’s aged in the same oak barrel with the same honey from the same farm and crafted within the same week, every year. The aroma comes across as big, sweet honey as if drizzled over a biscuit, then as the glass starts to breathe, the sourwood comes through, opening up to subtle star anise, cinnamon sugar toast, chai tea, gingerbread, and cloves.

4. Pink Peppercorn Sour Saison

This lovely little barrel-aged sour saison here is limited to just a handful of cases. It’s delicate on the pallet and features floral and fruit notes from pink peppercorns with hints of lemon and cranberry, all balanced by a medium sourness and phenolic brett saison character.

Visit a taproom to try a sour beer in person

Enjoy a sour beer fresh at one of our taprooms! Choose your Hi-Wire adventure here. We look forward to seeing you soon. Cheers!