Sour IPA: Craze or Delight?

As the sour beer revolution continues to make waves, craft brewers have stumbled onto something new - merging the increasingly popular tartness of sour beer with the hoppy aromatics of IPA. It's a perfect way to combine the two flavors, creating tart refrehers that are both delicious and thirst-quenching. Try one and you'll understand why the sour-hopped beer trend is here to stay!

Craft beer drinkers in the know turn to IPA to hit their hoppy cravings, while tart and tangy sours and Goses deliver a unique combination of mouthwatering sourness and refreshing salty notes. Not content with two very distinct categories, many brewers are now experimenting with dry-hopping sour beer and combining elements of both sour and IPA styles. Now a new style of beer,dry-hopped sour, is gaining popularity, blending hops and sour yeast to deliver a tart refreshment with forward aromatics inspired by IPAs.

Brewing Techniques

The new dry-hopping approach utilizes hops added at the end of the brewing process to provide hop aroma and flavor without imparting bitterness. Dry-hopping pulls out essential oils and resin compounds from the hops, but because this form of addition isn’t boiled, all those impressionistic hop properties stay intact. This helps to create a beer that has the fruity and floral notes of an IPA without the aggressive bitter finish.

When dry-hopping is applied to a sour beer style, the result is a beer with more body, a bit more bitterness, and more hop flavor and aroma than is normally present in a Gose or Berliner Weiss. The sourness takes a back seat, perhaps even elevated just a bit, letting the hop aromatics shine through.

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How Sour Beer Becomes a Refresher

Simply put, these dry-hopped sours act as refreshers – tart and tangy, yet they offer some hop character, too. It’s a concept that seems simple, but it has repercussions, allowing a new style of beer to come into being, which appeals to a wide range of craft beer drinkers. By combining the body and bitterness of IPA with the acidity and tartness of Berliner Weiss, the perceived refreshment of a beer increases, making it a great choice to share with friends or as a thirst-quenching patio beer.

Brewers are finding joy in creating dry-hopped sours, with hops such as Idaho 7, Mosaic, Amarillo and Centennial learning the brunt of the work. Although hops used in the dry-hopping process will often change, most brewers agree this new beer should never be too bitter, but exhibit IPA-inspired aromas like stone fruit, citrus, and pine.

What Makes a Good Dry-Hopped Sour?

Dry-hopped sours should exhibit balance in their key components, meaning they should be tangy, but not too tart; they should incorporate bitterness that is chewable, yet never overpower. Dry-hopped sours should also have enough body to carry the hop aromatics, and linger on the palate in the most pleasant way.

Commercial Examples

Brewers throughout the world are experimenting with the dry-hopping sour process, with some of this year's commercially available examples including:

  • Shackmeister from the UK-based Fourpure Brewing Co.: a Gose-style pale ale made with Himalayan rock salt, coriander, and a blend of locally sourced hops — Cascade, Bramling Cross, and Olicana. This beer is tart and tangy, with strong notes of citrusy hoppiness.
  • Time Program from American brewery Creature Comforts: a grippy, bitter, yet tart wheat ale, that was sweetened by the addition of muscadine grapes.
  • The floral, citrusy Pineapple Gose from Canadian brewery Field House Brewing Co.
  • The dry-hopped Berliner Weiss from California's Kern River Brewing Co., which is pale, tart, and incredibly balanced.
  • Softly Spoken Magic Spells from Colorado's Funkworks:weisse, with a sweet/sour balance and an intense hop character.
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More and more craft breweries are releasing their own versions of this new style, but some brewers prefer to let their creations focus solely on either the sour and sweet aspects or the hoppiness. This is why you may still notice a few beers labeled as “sour IPAs” on tap lists, but the majority of these beers are likely to be dry-hopped Berliner Weisses or Goses.

A Rising Trend

The complex flavor combinations achieved by dry-hopping sour beer has made this style immensely popular with both traditional beer

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