In the battle of beer vs. wine, sour beers are Switzerland, uncommitted to either side. Aged in oak barrels, these brews hopscotch through lip-puckering fruit and barnyard funk, while waving hoppy, malty flavor flags. Warning: prickly, aggressive sour beers tend to overpower food and overwhelm in large doses, so share a glass for best results.
1. Blue Mountain Barrel House’s Sour Banshee, $12 per 750ml at Harvest Grocery + Supply
This brew swings between mouthfuls of vanilla-y citrus, Scotch and hops blasting pine and coconut. Medium-bodied with planned chaos, it’s like the beer equivalent of a de Kooning.
2. Victory Brewing Co.’s Sour Monkey, $13 per 750ml at Cleveland Market
Added brettanomyces — a type of yeast also found in wine — results in pleasant hay aromas, while a creamy background muffles the Granny Smith-like acidity.
3. Evil Twin Brewing’s Sour Bikini, $12 per 750ml at Southern Season
The lightest in body and a lemon-pucker riot, it’s tangy like a shandy, fruity like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and sour as buttermilk; refreshing to smack down, pull by pungent pull.
4. The Bruery’s Tart of Darkness, $19 per 750ml at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market
It’s like a Warhead candy was melted down and aged in Madeira and sherry casks, with a grand, Bing cherry flavor finale. An unusual stout, this sipper comes without wintry heaviness.
5. Strangeways Brewing Co.’s Beatrice, $13 per 330 ml at Uptown Market & Deli
The richest, least sour of the five is best described in wine-meets-beer lingua franca: carbonated, tawny port, fig, golden raisins, fine-grained yeasts.