03/18/2014 07:17 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2014

Sour Beer Primer: How (and Why) to Drink These Funky Wild Ales


For years, super-hoppy IPAs were the cool thing to order at craft beer bars. To get anything else--well, you might as well have asked for an Appletini. Enter the sour beer, a style loved by brew nerds but easily appreciated by anyone. Beneath that first tongue-tingling shock is an elegant Champagne fizz and acidic twang that chainsaws through fatty or salty foods, yet is delicate enough for sushi. This is all thanks to souring bacteria Pediococcus and Lactobacillus (which morphs milk into yogurt), or the wild yeast Brettanomyces, which lends a musty barnyard accent. Yes, it can be an acquired taste, but one we think is well worth cultivating. When ordering in a bar, just ask the bartender for his tartest bottle or scan the menu for words like lambic, gueuze, funky, or wild--as in, wild ale. Or start with this guide when drinking at home. Sours have long been synonymous with Belgian lambics, fruity Flemish ales, and Germany's Berliner Weisse, but American brewers are also fiddling with microbes and bacteria. Here are a few of our lip-puckering favorites from around the world.

HOW TO DRINK IT: Sour beer should be sipped from a glass, not chugged from the bottle. To enhance its aroma and sparkling effervescence, try drinking it from a tulip-shaped beer glass instead of a pint. Spiegelau stemmed Pilsner glass ($22 for two;

Sour Beer Primer: How (and Why) to Drink These Funky Wild Ales

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