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Beer School: how is sour beer made? | The Craft Beer Channel

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Jonny travels to Belgium to meet the men who make the world's best sour beers, including the world famous Cantillon. Sour beers may be an acquired taste, but they are one seriously worth acquiring. They were the first beers ever brewed so every beer owes it a debt – here's how they are made. Now pucker up and give them their due. As in the video, here are our favourite sour beer breweries (in no particular order): Cantillon Beersel Boon Tilquin Lindemans Liefmans Wild Beer Co Russian River New Belgium Almanac Siren Craft Brew Celtic Experience SUPPORT US! Pledge on Patreon and get some cool merch & videos: https://www.patreon.com/craftbeerchannel Buy our new book, the London Craft Beer Guide, today: https://www.amazon.co.uk/London-Craft... And buy our first book, Beer School here: USA (Amazon): http://tinyurl.com/zbjx4sn UK (Amazon): http://tinyurl.com/zksjmdf Europe (Beer Merchants): http://tinyurl.com/jy6fr2y Twitter – @beerchannel Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/thecraftbeerc... Instagram – @jonnygarrett @mrbradevans Remember to drink responsibly(ish) and not be that guy...
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Text Comments (87)
ezrhino100 (25 days ago)
i think that i have found the perfect combination of my two favorite things in life, wine and beer. LAMBIC... i have been 'infected'...
ClearSmashDrop (1 year ago)
I didn't know sour beers even existed until a month or so ago. I've never really found a beer I liked until now. I guess my palette is different because I liked the very first sour I tried (American made) and really like a Belgium one I tried. Only down side it cant find them in regular grocery stores.
ach yeah you'll need to go to a specialist beer shop. Glad you've discovered it though - it's a whole new world of wonderful beer!
Jens Bøttcher (1 year ago)
Hey guys. Would have been nice if you had added subtitles, because sometimes it was really hard to hear what was said. :) Nice video otherwise.
Grey Eagle (1 year ago)
These are the kind of videos I like best from TCBC. A beer destination trip and a lesson in beer history. From a home brewers standpoint this was a very well made tutorial about the Belgian Lambic traditions. Thanks
Brewery Life (1 year ago)
Great beer videos man! Interested in brewing as a career? Check out my New Channel for Commercial Brewing questions/techniques, cheers!
john olmos (1 year ago)
Had my first sour the other day, it made me crave more. They're kind of difficult to find in the basic grocery stores though.
Randall Schoverling (2 years ago)
Are you not supposed to use a charred barrel for aging sours?
Randall Schoverling (2 years ago)
I have a 5 gallon charred barrel. I just used it to make an oaked mild ale (John Palmer's 'Belladonna Took' recipe), and it was too strong, like whiskey tasting, burned wood. I was under the impression that after a few times using a charred barrel as an aging vessel, all the flavor would be leached out. It would no longer impart any toasted qualities to the wort. I was thinking to then use it to age homebrew sour ales?
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Randall Schoverling hey Randall! this comment has me stumped! I've never heard of anyone using charred barrels for souring beer so not sure where that idea comes from? Where did you hear it? As far as I know if they are virgin barrels they may be toasted but not charred. If they are spirit or wine barrels it depends on the previous contents... would love to know more if you have sources!
Austin White (2 years ago)
Excellent video. I just stopped by the Rare Barrel in Berkeley CA today and sampled some great sours! I highly recommend going there if you're ever in the area.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
we've never managed to have some but next time we're on the west coast we'll swing by+
Mark Sniadecki (2 years ago)
Upland Brewery (based in Bloomington, Indiana) produces a variety of sour beers, and recently opened a new facility especially for them.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
We'll look them up!
giannetto1000 (2 years ago)
In brett I trust.
spiff2268 (2 years ago)
OK, look, I love beer and I do a lot of home brewing. Nobody loves a good beer more than me. But I tried a sour beer awhile back, and I can see why people quit drinking them many years ago. I can't remember the name of it, but it was supposed to be one of the good ones. Now if you have the taste for sour beer then more power to ya. As for me, I'm gonna take a pass.
spiff2268 (2 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel Oh, I never turn down a free beer!
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+spiff2268 haha, fair enough. All I'd say is keep trying when someone offers and maybe one day one might surprise you!
M Sands (2 years ago)
Do they have hops? There's no mention of them.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
you mean in Belgian lambic? They do but usually aged hops with very little bitterness left. They're just used for their preservatives. However, beersel use slightly fresher hops to add a little bitterness and aroma. That's very unusual though.
Frying Enigmas (2 years ago)
I LOVE SOUR BEER!!! ITS THE WAY BEER WAS MEANT TO TASTE!!!
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Frying Enigmas Amen. As natural as beer or any alcoholic beer can be.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Frying Enigmas Amen. As natural as beer or any alcoholic beer can be.
dannyzep92 (2 years ago)
One if my first Ventures into European craft beer was a sour beer from Germany and it tasted like a pickle haha my palate wasn't ready for it.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+dannyzep92 hahaha - it's takes getting used to!
Dave Cavalla (2 years ago)
Wicked Weed and Burial in Asheville NC are doing some great sours
invinciblejets (2 years ago)
"Sour" beer ..is beer.
Whiskey River (2 years ago)
Cantillon............"nearly" impossible to find in the States; but a good friend in NYC turned me on to some of their Rose de Gambrinus last year. Exquisitely marvelous, and enjoyable to the extreme. My next road trip needs to be to Belgium, my favorite beer brewers; well, next to Yorkshire that is....... LOL!!! Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs, and Crooked Stave in Denver, come as close as I've ever tasted, to a true Belgian sour. If you're ever in their area, you must give them a visit. Cheers!
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Whiskey River (Doc) we will! Love crooked stave and are lucky enough to get some over once a year or so.
Alexander Robnett (2 years ago)
Good vid!
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Alexander Robnett thanks!
Dean Goodhue (2 years ago)
never heard about sour beer
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+Dean Goodhue well it's an acquired taste but any of those listed in the video would be a fantastic start, and they are some of the most exciting beers in the world.
hacksack1 (2 years ago)
lm drinking the Reuss sour beer love them sour ales.
The Craft Beer Channel (2 years ago)
+hacksack1 and hopefully more after the video!
TVinmyEye (3 years ago)
im actually drinking that Almanac Dog Patch sour its fucking incredible.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Such a great beer. Reviewed it a few years ago and was blown away.
chaosrulerofall (3 years ago)
cascade brewing company makes beautiful sour beers in the US
2 Hand Luke (10 months ago)
idaho represent
Phillip Howe (2 years ago)
+chaosrulerofall But Cascade and Wicked weed are just too freaking expensive. I understand it takes a long time until they can turn a profit, but ~$30 a 750mL is ridiculous when I can grab something from The Bruery, Anderson Valley, or Westbrook. Heck I'd even buy myself some Boulevard Love Child before I drop $30.
Brewery Show (2 years ago)
+chaosrulerofall That's true, they definitely do - some of the best, too.
Eris V Andal (3 years ago)
Wild beers (with brett or other "free range" yeast) are different from soured beers (with lactobacillus or other souring bacteria) though. A wild beer isn't necessarily a sour beer. And a sour beer doesn't have be born as a wild beer. You mention this a little bit in the beginning when first discussing barrel aging with Cantillon where you mention lactic acid but it feels like you don't make enough distinction throughout the video. Maybe it would have been a bit too confusing but I see this mistaken identity a lot now that "sours are the new black." Thanks for your videos! Just found them through a craft beer club post over here in Singapore.
brittany brinker (3 years ago)
Very cool and very informative video. I've never watched anything from your channel before, but this has turned me on to watching them. Thank you, and cheers.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+brittany brinker Glad you enjoyed it! Hopefully you can find lots of other things we'vedone that you like.
fat420cracker (3 years ago)
I love me some sours. Cantillon, de Garde, Cascade, The Commons, Upright, Breakside, The Bruery,  Rare Barrel, Jester King, Crooked Stave etc etc etc
TVinmyEye (3 years ago)
rodenbach makes some pretty damn good ones as well.
Jacob Talamantes (3 years ago)
Yes! Cascade, The Bruery, and rare Barrel. I very much agree with those. Haven't tried some of the others but looks like I'll have to .
Carlos Leon (3 years ago)
There is a great brewery called Russian River Brewery in Santa Rosa California. They make a great sour beer called Consecration. High on sourness, and so smooth.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Carlos Leon we know them well! It's a lifetime ambition to get to see the brewery.
King of Whiskey (3 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel hey two questions. So is it possible to make a bold flavored beer with mangos? If so could you guys make one, please?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+kilo_yomama Ha! We love a request like that. I don't know any sour beers with mango, but we just brewed with Brewdog (video on sunday!) and that was with peach and apricot. We'll look into mango - it's an obvious choice!
Oliver Coningham (3 years ago)
Great video and introduction to the style. I'm personally still waiting for a eureka moment, but it's still interesting nonetheless. Got a bottle of St. Austell's Tamar Creek (a kriek not a sour) so perhaps it'll come from there. I have a question though... As the yeast added is spontaneous and not measured, how can they continually brew the same sour? Would each batch not be different depending on the type and amount of yeast they had? Would a bottle of Cantillon purchases now taste completely different to one purchased 2 years ago say?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+barvdw indeed. And Beersel don't even have a brewery, but they would like one they say.
barvdw (3 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel And that's why brewing lambic and blending gueuze are 2 different specialties. Traditionally, some blenders don't brew, and some brewers don't blend. For instance, 3 Fonteinen has a very small brewing installation, most of their beers are blends with lambic from different brewers.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Enjoy the kriek - it's still made with a sour base so will have that tartness! As for your question, brewers only let the beer be infected for 24 hours, so the amount of yeast is roughly the same. There are still some variations in batches of lambic, but when they blend it for gueuze/kriek/framboise etc they can correct that by using different quantities of each. More young lambic to reduce sourness/yeast flavours, more old if it is under-inocculated. Therein lies one of the great skills of the lambic brewer!
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
I expect a Zwanze special video!!! ;)
Jessica Gregory (1 year ago)
My girl
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
I really love Beersel Kriek! So good!!!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Cheers for the tip! We'll look it up.
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
+The Craft Beer Channel​​ Montegioco and Loverbeer are probably two of the best in Piemonte. Also Black Barrels is a very good beer firm. Genoa is quite anknown for me. I suggest you to read this book (old but gold): ITALY BEER COUNTRY. 
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Francesco Bandini we came into Italy on bikes through the Alps, so went Turin, Alba, Genoa.
Francesco Bandini (3 years ago)
A lot!!! Of those three, my favourite is Birrificio Italiano. Where did you go?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Francesco Bandini We were there in September! Drank lots of Birra Del Borgo, Birrificio Italiano and Baladin. Anyone else we should track down?
John Nesbitt (3 years ago)
Another brilliant video. I love a good sour every once in a while. Perfect for waking up the sences.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Indeed - they can be an awesome sucker punch to the face after too much hoppy beer.
Tom Culley (3 years ago)
How similar is that white grape must blend to Vigneronne?
Tom Culley (3 years ago)
Sounds awesome. I'm having St Lamvinus for the first time on Saturday, cannot wait!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
I think it's a bit more vinous and tannic. Almost had a grappa-like edge if it weren't for the lovely honeyed aroma.
T T (3 years ago)
What's the most common yeast strain the Belgians use? Lactobacillus?
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Well there we go! Thanks guys! I've actually learnt something on a Sunday.
Emma & Chris (3 years ago)
Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are NOT yeast strains but bacteria and are probably as, if not more, important than wild yeast in brewing sour beer. Lactobacillus produces lactic acid during fermentation, which is that acidic tang that you detect in most sour beers. You'll find its pretty ubiquitous. Acid production by bacteria lowers pH in beer, which favours Brettanomyces strains of yeast over Saccharomyces strains (both are present in Cantillion beers)
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
+Yanni mouzakis YES! Lactobacillus and berliner weisses ring a bell.
Yanni mouzakis (3 years ago)
Not an expert, but there are three main sour beer yeast stains: Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. Brett can give a huge variety of flavors, some even very unpleasant, ranging from "Horse blanket" to "bandaid." However, under the right conditions it can give wonderful funkiness. Lactobacillus is not used very often, and it is used mainly in the Berliner Wisse. Pedio can give a buttery flavor and plays in the process of curing salami!    
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Tricky one to answer because the inoculation is from the air or barrel, so yeasts vary depending on weather/season/temperature. Different strains of saccharomyces are still always there, then brett and lactobacillus are there too, as well as pediococcus I think. Any microbiologist or sour homebrewers correct me if I'm wrong! 
Greg Smith (3 years ago)
I tried Diabolus Sour Ale from Durham Brewery last week, really nice drink and taste I've never experienced before. At 10% ABV I expected to really taste the alcohol or excessive sweetness but the sour taste controlled everything!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Wow. 10% and sour? A beer for the brave!
kuken2000 (3 years ago)
Yay! Beer School is back!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
It's been too long hasn't it! We'll make sure it's not long til the next one.
AdamsCraftBeerChannel (3 years ago)
Great video Jonny. Fantastic production and a great topic that everyone in craft beer should know about for the upcoming Summer! Cheers!
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
thanks mate. Spring's here so let's get puckered up!
tomber220 (3 years ago)
Great video! now I'm interested in tasting a sour beer and hopefully one day make one
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Great, that's what we want to hear!
HopZine (3 years ago)
Great work guys, I see a Beer Writers Guild award in your future (if you are a member). Informative yet approachable for the less beer geeky folk out there. Well done gents.
The Craft Beer Channel (3 years ago)
Hey Rob, thanks so much for saying that. Means a lot coming from you. We've just joined the guild so maybe one day!

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