Home Beer Style decoder: hoppy sours

Style decoder: hoppy sours

The place where tart meets hoppy is the newest frontier in beer.
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Hopped sours are the new frontier, melding two of the hottest styles of beer right now (IPAs and sour beers). But not all are alike; look for these clues to decipher what’s in the bottle:

Dry-hopped sours: Traditional sour styles like lambics and Berliner weisses get new life with a healthy dose of hops added late in the boil; they’ll impart big aromas ranging from tropical fruit to pine to citrus. Those same hop notes can surface on the tongue, but hop bitterness

Sour IPAs/pale ales: Brewers spike their hop-forward beers with souring yeast or bacteria … results may vary. The sip can lean hoppy, sour or some balance of the two, but usually features pronounced bitterness (at 100 IBUs, Trinity’s Red Swingline IPA Primitif is a good example).

Brett IPAs: IPAs fermented with Brettanomyces are outliers; they will not be as sour as beers dosed with lactobacillus or pediococcus bacteria. Instead, they display a variety of funky flavors like must, earth or barnyard.


Citrusy, floral and fruity hops are best bets for hopping sours, says Chad Yakobson, owner/brewer at Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project: “The dank, herbal, piney hops come off a little strong and can mingle in a weird way with the flavors from the Brettanomyces and souring bacteria.” He brews Progenitor, a dry-hopped golden sour, and the Hop Savant series of Brettanomyces IPAs and pale ales.


Because of its flared mouth, a tulip glass is your best vessel for experiencing all of dry-hopped sours’ gorgeous aromatics.


Almanac Simcoe Sour: This sour blonde ale, aged in wine barrels then dry-hopped, beautifully embodies the hoppy sours trend; hop character offers a nice counterpoint to the acidity. The aroma bursts with bold pine, garlic and onion woven with a hint of musty blanket and a cedarlike note. Lemon and traces of fresh pine bounce along assertive tartness before a bone-dry finish.

Grimm Rainbow Dome: Sharp hay, rose hips and citrus drive the nose of this American wild ale brewed with apricots and then dry-hopped with El Dorado, Columbus and Cascade hops. Flavors of passion fruit and apricot skin peek through briefly before a sour bite and clean bitterness sweep it all away. A bright, grassy flavor emerges as the palate adjusts to the tartness.

Breakside La Tormenta: This dry-hopped wild ale’s bouquet overflows with juicy pineapple and mango, along with fresh-mown grass; heavy funk hums beneath. A steady acidity transitions to mint and grass with guava and grapefruit at the sip’s tail. Sour and hop notes pile atop each other, creating a super cohesive swallow.

New Belgium Le Terroir: The grandfather of American dry-hopped sours, Le Terroir matures for three years in oak foeders. Vibrant clementine, light lemon juice and wildflower scents mingle with earthy woodiness. The sourness builds quickly throughout the sip, cresting along with the hops’ dankness, mint and light passion fruit before oakiness initiates a dry conclusion.


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