Sour Beer Terminology

a group of women drinking different types of sour beers

Sour beers are becoming increasingly popular, and there's a good reason for that. They offer a unique flavor profile that can't be found in other types of beer. However, because they are such a niche category, many craft brewers and home brewers who are getting started with sour beers may not be familiar with all the terminology and the common types of sour beers available. 

In this blog post, we'll go over some beer terminology you might come across when reading about or discussing these types of beer.

Acetic Acid

Acetic acid is one of the main types of acids used when brewing sour beer. It's made by adding bacteria to the beer, breaking down the sugars, and producing acetic acid. This type of sour beer is usually very tart and acidic. It's characterized by a sharp, vinegar-like flavor. When comparing different types of sour beers, the level of acetic acid is often used as a measure of tartness.


Most clean sours are made with lactobacillus and/or pediococcus, and sometimes brettanomyces.

  • Lactobacillus is a bacteria that is responsible for the tartness in yogurt, pickles, and sauerkraut.
  • Pediococcus is a bacteria that is often found in beer spoilage but can also be used to add tartness to the beer.
  • Brettanomyces is a type of yeast that can add funkiness to beer.

Despite the sour brewing technique used, these sours are often described as refreshing and easy to drink. They can be found in many different styles, from goses to lambics. 


Esters are a type of organic compound produced during the fermentation process. They give various types of sour beer their fruity aromas and flavors. There are two types of esters: alpha-acids and beta-acids. Alpha-acids are responsible for the bitter taste in beer, while beta-acids add sweetness.

Esters are produced when yeast breaks down sugars during fermentation. The process of breaking down sugars produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. When yeast ferments beer, esters are formed as a byproduct of this process.


Funk is a beer terminology that describes wide-ranging types of sour beer flavors and aromas that aren't present in beers fermented with Saccharomyces. Some of these flavors and aromas can be described as earthy, musty, and barnyard-like. Funk can also add a complex depth of flavor to sour beers.

Beers that are intentionally brewed to be funky are often referred to as "wild" or "spontaneous" beers. These types of beer are typically fermented with a mix of different types of yeast and bacteria, which can create a range of unique flavors. Funk is often an acquired taste, but it's definitely worth trying if you're looking to explore different types of sour beers.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is one of the most commonly used acids in brewing sour beer. It is produced by lactic acid bacteria and is responsible for the tart, acidic flavor in many types of sour beer. Lactic acid can be added to the brew kettle, fermentation vessel, or even after fermentation has been completed.

Most craft brewers use a culture of lactic acid bacteria that is specific to their desired flavor profile. The most common types of lactic acid bacteria used in brewing are Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. These play a vital role in bringing out the desired flavors in lactic-brewed types of sour beers.


Sour is a beer terminology that describes a beer's acidity, tartness, or citrus flavor. It's not to be confused with 'bitter,' which describes a beer's hops flavor. The sourness will depend on two main factors:

  • Spontaneously fermented - Spontaneously fermented sour beer is made by exposing wort to the open air, allowing wild yeast and bacteria to enter the mix and fermentation to occur. 
  • Kettle soured - Kettle soured sour beer is made by deliberately introducing lactobacillus bacteria into the wort while it's boiling. This produces lactic acid, which gives this type of sour beer its characteristic sour flavor. 

Different Types of Sour Beers

beer terminology

When exploring sour beers, especially those made with fruit purees, you'll come across unique flavor profiles. Here are some of the most common:

  • Berliner Weisse: A light and refreshing German-style sour beer with a slightly tart flavor.
  • Lambic: A Belgian style of sour beer that is often made with wild yeast, resulting in a complex and funky flavor.
  • Gose: A German-style sour beer brewed with salt and coriander, giving it a unique salty flavor.
  • Flanders Red: A Belgian style of sour beer fermented with cherries, resulting in a complex and fruity flavor.
  • Flanders Brown: A Belgian style of sour beer similar to Flanders Red but with a darker color and a maltier flavor.
  • Oud Bruin: A Belgian sour beer style similar to Flanders Brown but with a sharper, more acidic flavor.

Learn More About Craft Brewing With Fruit Purees

Understanding the beer terminology and the different types of sour beers can help you find a beer that's perfect for your palate. For craft brewers or home brewers who are getting started or trying our new brews, it's an opportunity to learn more, get creative, and explore new flavor profiles. 

At Fierce Fruit, we bring you a wide range of 100% natural fruit purees that you can add to your beer brewing process. Our fruit purees can help you add freshness, aroma, and flavor to your beer. Check out our website or contact us today to learn more about our ready-to-use products.


An infographic about terminology for sour beers.

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