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Grainfather Blog - Week 90: Brewing a Hoppy Sour

By Grainfather - All Grain Brewing 30/09/2016 16:56 Comments

In this week's Weekly Mash, Dave from our UK office takes a look at how you can successfully combine 'hoppy' with 'sour'. The two are not mutually exclusive and can create some unique and interesting beers but require some forward planning to brew succesfully;

'If you take a look at almost any beer style, or any commercially brewed beer being made today than it quickly becomes clear that the key to them all (to a varying degree) is balance. Sweetness from grains is balanced by bitterness from hops, dark chocolate and coffee in a stout is balanced by the relatively higher final gravity. In sour beers, the sweetness derived from the malt is balanced by sourness, rather than any hop bitterness (and it is well documented that IBU's from hops inhibits sourness in beers). As a result it is unusual to see 'hoppy' and 'sour' combined very often in a beer.

This is quite a short sighted view though as it is not just bitterness that hops impart, there is also a whole range of fantastic flavours and aromas that can combine wonderfully with the flavours produced in a mixed fermentation. The earthy, spicy character of English hops combined with the horse-blanket and mustiness of a barrel aged, bretted beer? The bright, citrus aromas of American hops with the tart sourness of a Berliner Weisse? Or the grapefruit, mango and papaya of New World hops with the pineapple characteristics of Brettanomyces.

Where the difficulty lies in brewing a sour beer that exhibits these characteristics is that most mixed fermentation beers require extended periods of aging. Hop aroma is highly volatile, so any aroma or flavour you might normally get from late kettle hop additions or whirlpooling will have faded by the time you have finished aging your sour beer. Combining this with the funky characteristics of a mixed fermentation can give the impression of a stale beer which is not what you're after.

If you want to create a beer which has a complex sour and funk character but also has a bright and fresh hop aroma and flavour then the best tactic is to age your mixed fermentation beer as normal, allowing funk and sourness to develop over a period of months and then dry hop your beer a few days prior to packaging. One of the other benefits of following this method is that it allows you to sample the beer and get an idea of what hop combinations you feel will work well with the flavours that have developed.

Dry hopping in this manner means you retain the fresh hop aroma on top of a complex, multi-dimensional beer, creating something that is unique, more well rounded than a fast-soured beer and most importantly, balanced.'

So there you have it, has anyone tried brewing a sour, hoppy beer before? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments below or by emailing

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