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Sour and wild beer: what is the difference?

You may have heard the terms “sour ale” (sour ale, sour ale) and “wild ale” (wild ale, wild ale), often used interchangeably to refer to beer with a tart or harsh taste. Although these words may from time to time accurately describe the same beer, they have different meanings, and using them as synonyms can disappoint brewers who try to describe their varieties thoroughly.

What is wild beer?
“Wild beer” – or rather, “wild ale”, as it was called from the very beginning in Belgium and Germany, is a beer made with the help of something that goes beyond the traditional Saccharomyces cerevisiae brewer’s yeast.

This “something” may refer to wild yeast found in the environment, such as Brettanomyces (a type of yeast commonly found on fruit peels). This may also apply to bacteria, such as Pediococcus and Lactobacillus, which give the beer a different idiosyncrasy.

Brewers can add these organisms on their own, introducing them during fermentation, or they can let them get into the beer naturally through the air. The latter option may turn out to be risky, as brewers have less control over the final product, however, the results can be very complex and interesting.

Allagash Brewing Brewer Jason Perkins says his team keeps an eye on everything from outdoor weather to room temperature while keeping barrels of beer in the hope of an outstanding final product.

“There are a number of flavors that simply cannot be achieved in any other way. The level of difficulty in beer, which took so much time to make, is simply impossible to repeat in another way, ”says Perkins.

Allagash Brewing Co.
Jason Perkins, Allagash Brewing Co. Chief Brewer Photo: Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine
What is sour ale?
The sour taste in beer usually comes from lactic acid: it is a typical by-product of the bacteria Pediococcus and Lactobacillus. Lactic acid lowers the pH of the beer and, depending on the amount present, can add a variety of shades to the beer – from subtle astringency to a level of acidity that makes you frown.

Many wild beers have a sour taste due to the presence of these bacteria along with Brettanomyces yeast, which can create or enhance acidic hues in beer. However, while some brewers label certain beers as “sour,” others object to using the word to indicate style.

For Priest, this method involves cooling the wort in a cooler – a container similar to a large bathtub, which allows air from the street (and everything in it) to enter the wort, saturating it with many wild microorganisms. The Referend Bier Blendery’s work is completely dependent on yeast and bacteria from the air – Saccharomyces are not used here.

In Allagash, the opinion about the separation of the terms “wild” and “sour” is about the same. Perkins says the brewery generally uses the term “sour” carefully to describe its beer.

“This term can give a false impression of what beer should be like,” says Perkins. – To be honest, I think this definition simplifies the understanding of styles in which there is sourness. She is not the only defining characteristic of many of these beers. ”

So the next time you try some beer, aged in a barrel and fermented using Brettanomyces, or with a sour and tart taste, remember the difference between the words “sour” and “wild”. The brewer will be grateful to you.

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