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What’s that funk in my beer?!

December 6, 2016

Have you tried one of our sour beers recently and wondered where the beer gets its flavor from? We just released Batch 4 of our sour series and present to you the origins of this unique style of beer.


Sour beers get their distinct character of sour flavor and tartness from bacteria and wild yeasts—lactobacillus, acetobacter, brettanomyces. These strains of yeast and bacteria exhibit their very own flavor and aroma to beers.


For example:

Lactobacillus exhibits yogurt tang.

Acetobacter gives you a vinegar like sourness.

Brettanomyces has an earthy-farmhouse aroma.


In some of the sour styles, the bacteria and yeast come into the beer by keeping wort exposed to the natural air, a process called open fermentation. Other sours rely on the bacteria and yeast in barrels to do a similar job. As the barrels get older, the sourer the beer gets, which leads to the common practice of blending beer from several different barrels, young and old, to get a consistent beer.

Some of the popular styles of sour beers are:



1) Lambic


Lambic is a term used for the sour beers brewed in and around Brussels. The process for the mash is unique for lambics. It works on a combination of about 50% unmalted wheat combined with several hours of boiling.



Lambic brewers use open fermentation.


Brettanomyces and pediococcus are the main two strains of bacteria used in this style. The latter is the main cause harsh acidity in the beer, which is later mellowed down by aging in wooden barrels.



Lambics are sharp, acidic, and fruity. Something with a vinegar like taste but sweeter.



2) Straight Lambics


These unblended lambics, when young are very sour and acidic. As it ages, the beer mellows.



Earthy-farmhouse notes from the brettanomyces, malt, and wheat come forward. Mild oak and citrus are common aromas and flavors. Older straight lambics are even fruitier with notes of apple and honey and tend to have a dry finish the longer it ages.



3) Fruit Lambic 

Lambics that have fruit added to them, usually halfway through the aging process so bacteria and yeast can ferment the fruit.



The added fruit dominates the aroma and flavor, but should still contain the characteristic Lambic sourness, acidity, and earthiness. They are not aged very long before being put on the shelves, since the Lambic flavor takes over if aged for more than

a few months.



4) Flanders Red/Brown


Region divides Flanders red and brown ales—in West Flanders we have the red ale from the iconic Rodenbach Brewery and in East Flanders we have the brown ale, most notably from Liefmans. Both styles range in acidity from mellow to very sharp and are deeply fruity with lots of dark fruit characteristics. Flanders ales are commonly blended, much like the Lambic in Brussels.



5) Flanders Red Ale 

Aged in large wooden vats, these sours exhibit earthy and vanilla notes which smooth out the sharp, acidic flavors that come from the bacteria that make this beer.



Flanders red ales are medium-bodied, acidic, and they have high, intense flavors of fruit.



6) Sour Brown/Oud Bruin 

Flanders brown ales are sour but acetic or vinegary.



They too have earthy and fruity notes, like plums and black cherries. Lactobacillus and brettanomyces add yogurt tang and earthy notes to but the highlight is acetobacter, which gives it a vinegar like finish.



We kicked off the sour beer program at Arbor Brewing Company, Bangalore in Nov 2015 and here’s a look at the various beers we’ve released over the past year.


Batch 1 – Foothills Blonde & Apex Dubbel (Nov 2015)
Batch 2 – Foothills Blonde & 200 day IPA (Sep 2016)
Batch 3 – Sour Tango & Phantasm Stout (June 2016)
Batch 4 – Apex Dubbel & Oude Pruim (Dec 2016)


Our spotlight is on the Apex Dubbel and Oude Pruim that just went on tap and we hope you enjoy these two delicious sour beers.





The Apex Dubbel:


Apex Dubbel is a dignified dark Belgian style beer with a well-rounded sweetness that spans flavors you find in red wines and American Bourbon. From the oak, you can enjoy vanilla and caramel aromas that with extended conditioning brings the subtle dark fruit and chocolate presence from the base beer to the forefront.


Once in the oak barrel, we monitor the traits as a vintner would with a fine wine. When the taste indicated ideal benefit, we again matured the beer in kegs—the outcome is a distinctly rare mix that is much easier to enjoy than create.


Oude Pruim:


Fan favorite Phat Abbot Tripel is aged for 3 months in oak whiskey barrels inoculated with vintage sour beers from the Arbor brewpub in Ann Arbor, Michigan! By introducing the funk from a 2013 sour ale we were able to quickly sour this barrel. The addition of a boatload of plums gives this sour ale a light purple color and a strong tart flavor with a spicy finish.