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Vibrant acidity and refreshing effervescent minerality – you can find these flavours in sour and wild-fermented beers. Salty Gose? Sour Berliner Weisse? Mineral Gueuze? Juicy Wild Ale? Find your favorites.
The uncrowned king of sour beers is Lambic. Hailing from the Zenne valley in the Pajottenland region of Belgium. Fermented with wild yeast, aged in oak barrels and sometimes flavored with various berries and fruits, such as cherries (kriek), raspberries (framboise), blackcurrants (cassis), unflavoured Lambic is commonly referred to as Gueuze. Brewers usually do everything to avoid wild yeast getting into beer, but with Lambic it’s the other way around. Beer is pumped into open vessels to let the wild yeast in. This combined with barrel aging produces the characteristic flavours of Lambic – minerality, apple cider, wine and vinegar notes, vibrant acidity, herbal and floral flavours. These are just some of the flavours that characterize this noble style. Producing Lambics is a time-consuming process. Before bottling, the beer matures in oak barrels for years – a minimum of one year, but often two or three years. The finished product is often a grand blend from several carefully selected barrels.
Wild-fermented beers produced outside of Belgium are called Wild Ales. Wild Ales have similar flavour properties to Lambics. In Denmark, for example, Mikkeller has a separate brand called Baghaven, which focuses on the production of wild beers. In Estonia, Pühaste Brewery in Tartu has launched its Wild Ale program. Several wine and spirit barrels are filled with exciting beers that are slowly developing more nuanced and elegant flavours . Both Lambic and Wild Ales pair well with seafood and fish due to their mineral and wine-like character.
Sour beer does not always mean wild-fermented beer. Berliner Weisse is a light wheat beer from Germany that derives its acidity from lactic acid bacteria. Usually 3-4% ABV, often seasoned with berries or fruits. As wild yeast is not used, this style does not develop vinous and cider-like earthy notes, but rather a pure, refreshing, vibrant acidity.
Lactic acid bacteria also gives acidity to Gose style beer (not to be confused with Lambic beer gueuze). The style, which dates back to the 13th century German city of Goslar, is historically characterized by an alcohol content of 4-5%, a herbal aroma of lemon and coriander, and a sour and salty taste. Once the local water made the beer slightly salty, nowadays salt is consciously added to beer. It is popular to season gose with a variety of berries, herbs and fruits. A stronger version is also produced in order to intensify the body and flavours – Imperial Gose.
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