For beer nerds reared on hoppy IPAs and chocolaty stouts, sours are rarely a love-at-first-sip experience. Like stinky cheese and dry-aged beef, drinking sours means entering a realm where descriptors that sound off-putting—gym-sock musk and barnyard funk—can suddenly become holy grails of flavor and aroma.

The fact that these sometimes-challenging ales have surged in popularity recently speaks both to the expanding palate of craft-beer fans, as well as the efforts of homegrown breweries—Jolly Pumpkin, Allagash, Crooked Stave—that have doubled down on the previously underrepresented category. And, ironically, sours have become an effective tool in recruiting wine drinkers who think they don’t like beer. When lagers are too fizzy and IPAs too bitter, it’s often a Champagne-like Berliner weisse or tart, palate-cleansing gueuze that’s just right.

Part of the fun of discovering sours is going back to the Belgian O.G.s to understand where the tradition comes from, then exploring the ways American brewers have adopted and remixed age-old techniques. There’s also all manner of sub-genres to dig into, from salt-kissed German gose, to fruity lambics, to complex Belgian grand crus and Flemish reds.

To help guide you on the path to mouth-puckering enlightenment, we enlisted our team of beer pros—including brewers, bar owners, and journalists—to share their favorites:

Admittedly, a bad sour can be truly horrifying (when that barnyard funk becomes more like a taco fart in a crowded minivan, it’s time to run for the hills). But follow these recommendations and you’ll soon be chasing that face-scrunching sensation with the same enthusiasm that you chase the bitter wallop of an imperial IPA.

Wicked Weed Serenity

From: Asheville, NC
ABV: 5.4%

Asheville newcomers Wicked Weed brewed Serenity—a tart, GABF gold medal-winning Brettanomyces saison—to mimic the flavors of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine. The experiment works: Serenity is undeniably wine-like, with a washed-out hay color; a crisp, fresh finish; and some intoxicatingly heady aromas of wild flowers and tropical fruits.—Justin Kennedy 

The Bruery Tart of Darkness

From: Orange County, CA
ABV: 5.6%

Tart of Darkness may begin as a boring 5% ABV stout. But The Bruery’s Patrick Rue funks the base beer up with his proprietary blend of souring bacteria and a months-long siesta in oak barrels. The result is a complex, supremely-sour stout whose tartness is rounded out with a smooth sweetness from the roasted malts and an unexpected, almost red wine-like tannic structure.—Justin Kennedy (Photo:

Tired Hands Handfarm

From: Ardmore, PA
ABV: 5%

Tired Hands is an eccentric little brewpub just outside of Philly that makes some of the most off-beat beers on the East Coast. Handfarm—their sublime, four-grain house saison fermented and aged in Chardonnay wine barrels—is available in ultra-limited bottle runs that go on sale only at the brewery several times a year and always sell out within hours.—Justin Kennedy (Photo: Brew Bokeh)

Westbrook Gose

From: Mt. Pleasant, SC
ABV: 4%

Salty, lemony goodness in a can. These guys nailed this beer—it is so well-balanced between a light tarness and a bit of salt. This beer has become my new summer patio pounder.—Bill Brooks (Photo: Beer Pulse)

New Glarus Raspberry Tart

From: New Glarus, WI
ABV: 4%

For all the amazing things New York has to offer, it still doesn’t have New Glarus. Raspberry Tart is one of the few beers that I use as an excuse to want to move out of this city. Bright fruit, with a quick dry finish and just a kiss of sourness, makes this beer absolutely amazing. I recently found one from four years ago and the fruit is still beautiful and bright.—Bill Brooks (Photo: Isthmus Daily)

Lost Abbey Veritas 013

From: San Marcos, CA
ABV: 6.5%

Brewed with peaches, nectarines, and three different strains of Brett, this sour has a lot going on. The fruit plays well with the Brett to contribute a nice juiciness to the front. It finishes with a lot of tart acidity and the different strains of Brett bring on a complex funkiness.—Bill Brooks (Photo:

Cisco Lady of the Woods

From: Nantucket, MA
ABV: 5%

Cisco is a three part operation: brewery, winery, and distillery. After they’re done making Chardonnay, they roll the barrels over to the brewery and fill them with fresh Grey Lady, Cisco’s Belgian-style white beer. Aged in oak, the beer’s lemon flavor becomes increasingly tart, all while being matched by amazing floral and tropical fruit flavors. The finish is crisp and dry. Don’t underestimate it—Lady of the Woods is remarkably sour, but it’s so well-balanced that you never mind the tartness.—Julian Kurland (Photo: Cisco Brewers)

Bockor Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge

From: Kortrijk, Belgium
ABV: 5.5%

A perfect food beer, this is a staff favorite [at The Cannibal]. Jacobins Rouge is an unblended lambic (as compared to a gueuze, which is a blend of three different lambics) that is aged in French oak for 18 months. The result is a beer loaded with vanilla and dried cherry, with a lightly sweet and malty sourness to round it out. The tartness cuts through rich flavors and leaves you ready for the next bite.—Julian Kurland (Photo: BeerPulse)

Perennial Artisan Ales La Boheme

From: St. Louis, MO
ABV: 6%

Brewed only once, La Boheme is a Flanders-style red ale with Michigan cherries. Once brewed, the beer is aged in Cabernet barrels, along with three different wild yeast strains and cherries. The oak and fruit are right upfront in the nose, backed by mild notes of vanilla, brown sugar, and lacto. These flavors carry right through to the body, along with great vinous notes that match the tannins perfectly.—Julian Kurland (Photo: Perennial Beer)

Backacre Beermakers Sour Golden Ale

From: Weston, VT
ABV: 7.2%

While not actually a “brewery,” Back Acre makes one of the best sours. The bad part? It doesn’t leave Vermont. They work with local breweries to produce beer that they then age in oak barrels to create a blended blonde ale. It is their tribute to the guezes of Belgium, and man do they nail it on the head. Earthy, sour, crisp, and refreshing, you have to buy this if you find one. Buy me one, too—I’ll pay you back.—Julian Kurland (Photo: Instagram/Chris Schonberger)

The Bruery Rueuze

From: Placentia, CA
ABV: 5.9%

This beer is an awesome example of American breweries putting their spin on Belgian lambics. The Bruery’s blonde ale is matured in a variety of oak barrels for varying lengths of time and then blended back into the bottle. Slightly fruiter than some other beers in the same category. Rueuze has notes of apricot, hay, and that wonderful barnyard funk that we all desire.—Julian Kurland (Photo: LetsPour)

Goose Island Gillian

From: Chicago, IL
ABV: 9.5%

Gillian is atypical of fruited sours, combining white pepper, strawberries, and honey in a Belgian-style farmhouse ale that’s further aged in wine barrels. The addition of spicing to this beer helps accentuate the natural pepperiness imparted by the yeast strain. Strawberries lend a great tartness and sour character, while the honey provides a slight sweetness.—Julian Kurland (Photo: Chicago Reader

Birra Del Borgo Duchessic

From: Borgorose, Italy (Lazio)
ABV: 5.4%

Duchessic is a collaboration beer of sorts, brewed by Birra Del Borgo in Italy. It’s a blended beer made up of 90% Duchessa—their saison/wheat beer brewed with local spelt—and 10% Cantillon Lambic that has been aged for one year. The resulting Duchessic is both a refreshing wheat beer and tart sour beer. On a recent visit to Italy, I enjoyed drinking Duchessic with some floral, grassy sheep’s-milk cheeses produced on my family’s farm, about 30 minutes from the Birra Del Borgo brewery.—Andrew Marcelli (Photo: Birra del Borgo)

LoverBeer BeerBrugna 2012

From: Marentino, Italy (Piemonte)
ABV: 6.2%

LoverBeer produces some of Italy’s most unique and small-batch beers in the wine-dominated region of Piemonte. BeerBrugna is fermented for two weeks in stainless steel with Brettanomyces and lactic acid bacteria. Afterwards, secondary fermentation occurs for 3-4 weeks, at which point local plums are added to the beer before it spends another 9-11 months in wood barrels. As you can see, Valter Loverier puts a lot of time and effort into his beer, and the results speak for themselves. BeerBrugna 2012 is quite a refreshing sour beer, retaining much of the plum flavor and aroma. Pair it with your favorite gamey meat or stinky cheese.—Andrew Marcelli (Photo: The Atlantic)

Russian River Brewing Consecration

From: Santa Rosa, CA
ABV: 10%

Russian River Brewing beer program has a few different personalities, producing some of the country’s best hop-forward beers and Belgian-style beers, as well as some of best barrel-aged beers, using local California wine barrels. Consecration comes from the barrel-aging program. It’s a sour dark ale aged in local Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with black currants, Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus added. I’ve had Consecration from the bottle as well on draft at the Russian River brewpub with their cranberry, walnut, and gorgonzola salad—a very enjoyable pairing.—Andrew Marcelli (Photo: The Brew Buzz)

Stillwater/Westbrook Remix Gose Gone Wild

From: Mount Pleasant, SC
ABV: 4.3%

If Westbrook’s Gose wasn’t already one of the most quaffable summer beers, Stillwater’s remix of this modern classic has totally pumped up the volume. Fermenting the classic style with various strains of Brettanomyces brings forth a layered and funky complexity that typical lactobacillus can’t muster. Hopping it intensely with Citra and Amarillo makes way for a delectable tropical fruit aroma. Don’t worry about imbibing carefully—she’s only 4.3% ABV!—Michal Lovullo (Photo: Beer Dreamer)

Jolly Pumpkin/Anchorage Calabaza Boreal

From: Dexter, MI
ABV: 7%

I’m usually a little underwhelmed when some of my favorite breweries collaborate. The finished product is rarely as good as what the breweries can accomplish on their own, but this is one huge exception. Both breweries are known for open-air fermenting and barrel-aging their ales. Now throw grapefruit peel, juice, and peppercorns into the mix, and the result is a 7% Belgian-style farmhouse ale with a bright fruit aroma and a slightly spicy finish.—Michal Lovullo (Photo: Beer Street Journal)

Maine Beer Company Barrel Program 1

From: Freeport, ME
ABV: 5.5%

From the folks of Maine Beer Company—producers of some of the most clean, balanced, and hoppy ales out there—comes “an exercise in patience.” This complex sour blonde ale is essentially a blend of two ales: the first is a farmhouse ale aged for 20 months in French oak red wine barrels with wild yeast and souring bacteria, and the second is their recipe for Peeper, fermented 100% with Brettanomyces and aged for 12 months in French oak red wine barrels. The result is a funky blonde ale with a refreshing tartness that strikes hard in the finish.—Michal Lovullo (Photo: Maine Beer Company)

Allagash Neddles

Portland, ME
ABV: 10.5%

Named after one of Allagash’s first brewers, Ned Wight, this is one of the finest offerings from Allagash’s small-batch series. Coming in at 8%, the sour brown ale is inoculated with lactic bacteria that lends a dark cherry tartness. After that, it’s aged for 6-8 months in Ned’s rum barrels from New England Distilling to round out the edges.—Michal Lovullo (Photo: Beer Street Journal)

Wild Beer Company Bliss

Somerset, England
ABV: 6%

From these newcomers in Somerset, England comes a 6% saison with an interesting twist. Fermentation with Brettanomyces gives it a layered barnyard funkiness, while roasted apricots lend a rounded sweetness, and undisclosed spices provide a peppery spiciness that lingers in the tart finish. It seems like an odd mix, but I say bring it.—Michal Lovullo (Photo: Blood, Stout and Tears)

Foley Brothers Unforgotten


From: Brandon, VT
ABV: 6.2%

Daniel and Patrick Foley hit a home run with their Fair Maiden, a highly rated Imperial IPA, but I think their Unforgotten—a sour aged in white wine barrels—is just as good. After spending plenty of time in wood, this beer emerges with just the right amount of tartness, along with plenty of depth and complexity. The brothers cut their teeth at their family’s vineyard, and they clearly know quite a bit about fermenting in wine barrels.—David Broderick

Smutt Labs Hugs ‘n Rainbows

From: Hampton, NH
ABV: 6.5%

Dave Yarrington and Charlie Ireland started this red ale in stainless steel, fermenting it exclusively with Brettanomyces, before shifting it to whiskey barrels for another eight months. The finished product is tart, but with a fruity character and a malty finish that keeps your tongue moist throughout the entire glass.—David Broderick (Photo: Smuttynose)

Duchesse de Bourgogne

From: Vichte, Belgium
ABV: 6.2%

I have heard how sours have no middle ground—either you like them or you don’t. To people who think sours have to be divisive, I strongly recommend the Duchesse de Bourgogne, crafted by Vichte, Belgium’s Brouwerij Verhaeghe. A concoction of a young brew and one aged for 18 months in oak casks, this ruby-hued sipper boasts notes of tart plums, black cherries, and that funky, yeasty finish every sour fan demands. This is one of the best beers in the world, period.—Ale Sharpton (Photo: Vichte)

Cascade Brewing Apricot Ale

From: Portland, OR
ABV: 8.5%

Cascade concocts a slew of deliciously tart motherfunkers, but Apricot Ale is my favorite from the barrel-aging vanguard. A blend of blonde ales is inoculated with lactobacillus and aged in oak barrels, then matured further with fresh apricots. The result is an invigorating balance of moderate acidity, funky band-aid, and juice-bursting fruitiness. It’s perfection—the liquid version of boobies.—Niko Krommydas (Photo: Beer Pulse)

Local Option Schmetterling Gose


From: Chicago, IL (brewed at Against the Grain in Louisville, KY)
ABV: 4.5%

You get everything good about gose—tartness, salt, coriander—in this palate-awakener. On the first sip, the sour-saltiness shocks your palate. But it’s super refreshing—try to go back to something hoppy and your palate will rebel! I’m a big fan of this German-style specialty brewery in Chicago.—Jimmy Carbone (Photo: Local Option)