The Best American Sour Beers of 2018

Cellador Ales North Hills Sour Beer

There are certain unalienable truths in this world. The sky is blue. Water is wet. Myles Jack wasn’t down. Among those truths: the two of us absolutely love sour beer. We love them all: from the more nuanced and complex saisons to the full-blown acid bombs that send your face into a contorted pucker, we will chug sours until we have to pause for a run to CVS to get more Tums. Below is a list of the best sour beers we had in 2018. We realize not all of them were necessarily brewed in 2018— and nearly all of them likely were placed into barrels *before* the start of the year— but we’re basing our list on date of consumption, not on date tapped or bottled.

We’re also limiting the list to American sours, because we had hundreds of sour beers this year, that makes our job easier. We’re also limiting the list to one beer per brewery for the same reason. We could easily fill an entire list with sours from Une Annee or Cellador Ales— or even with sours from breweries left off this list entirely!— so know that if you feel your favorite sour was left off that we probably loved it too! But for the purposes of this exercise, we painfully whittled our list down to these fifteen, a selection of the year’s sour standouts, the ones that makes our mouths water and lips pucker when we think about them today.

Adroit Theory Illusion of Safety

Adroit Theory: Illusion of Safety

This gose mixes together apricot, pomegranate, and jalapeno while maintaining a tart finish. There is zero reason why this beer should be as delectable as it is. Credit to the mad geniuses at Adroit Theory in Purcellville, VA for cooking up one of the most distinctive beers we had this year.

Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales: Magic Lantern: Passionfruit, Guava, and Blood Orange

We had absurd amounts of sour beer in Denver, and while standards like Crooked Stave and TRVE were also terrific, Black Project’s sours stood out as the best of the bunch. The Magic Lantern, their standard with rotating fruit combinations, was fruity and balanced, with a splash of salt and plenty of tartness, but not enough to scorch the palate.

Branch and Bone Artisan Ales: Passion Fruit Salty Salute

It’s a well-known fact that salt makes everything better. (Except slugs.) Goses can run a bit salty, but we didn’t have anything this year that delivered this much salt with this much sour with this much fresh fruit flavor. By far the best sour beer we had in Dayton during our visit.

Casa Agria Oxnard Sour Beer

Casa Agria Specialty Ales: Frambuesa de la Casa

Raspberry isn’t just the color of the beret Prince’s love interest wore— it’s also one of our favorite sour beer flavors. Hard to pick just one Casa Agria sour beer, so we’ll single out this wildly tart and slightly funky mix, because we love a well-executed raspberry sour. You won’t find this one at a second-hand store.

Cellador Ales: The Gutless Wonder

Choosing the best Cellador Ales sour beer is like choosing the best John Goodman supporting performance: they’re all so great, it’s impossible to decide. We ultimately went with the Gutless Wonder, a Syndicate Release we enjoyed at the absolutely stellar Cellador-hosted Sour Friends Fest. Incredibly sour punch packed to the absolute brim with berry flavor.

Cellar West Artisan Ales: Apricot Long-Lost

We caught Cellar West in Boulder right before its move to Lafayette— and we are grateful we didn’t miss it. This oak-aged white ale has notable lemongrass and spice splashing in its funk, but that doesn’t drown out the sweet apricot flavor. It’s not especially tart, but since we aren’t doing a Best Oak Aged White Ales of 2018 list, its Bretty goodness can sit proudly amongst its more sour brethren.

De Garde The Bluest Tilamook

de Garde Brewing: The Bluest

We went to a Cantillon event at Mikkeller in Downtown LA, enjoyed the hell out of some Rose de Gambrinus (obviously), but then stuck around to order a bottle of The Bluest from the good people in Tilamook at de Garde. Has a bright blueberry aroma but a funkier blueberry skin finish. The two sensations together are very de Good. (Sorry.)

Dry River Brewing: Cajá

Dry River has been selling slow beer for a year and a half in Downtown LA, and anyone who hasn’t gone to their delightful, rustic taproom is missing out. They have terrific saisons and wild ales, our favorite of which was the Cajá, a passionfruit sour with bright flavor and balanced acidity.

The Good Beer Company: Michelada

Yes, you read this correctly. A sour beer Michelada. The Good Beer Company is the crown jewel of Santa Ana, cranking out an impressive resume of high-quality sours, but while we loved most everything in our visits, none linger in the memory like the first taste of this brilliantly unorthodox tart-and-spicy concoction.

The Good Beer Company Michelada

Monkish Brewing: Lyre and Rhyme

Monkish’s hazy IPAs are obviously some of the most coveted prizes on the beer trading market, but one shouldn’t sleep on Monkish’s sour options. The Lyre and Rhyme, oak-aged with Masumoto nectarines, is tarter than the average saison, but its overall execution is light and summery— the perfect drink in the South Bay when we enjoyed it this July.

Off Color Brewing: Market Rate

Surprised that there’s only one strawberry sour on this list? So are we, frankly. We are not surprised, however, that our listed strawberry sour comes from Chicago’s Off Color, makers of tremendous saisons and berliners. Sharply acidic, splashes of funkiness, and, of course, sweet strawberry juice galore.

Sour Cellars: Pie Pusher

This may come as a shock to some of you, but Sour Cellars is an all-sour brewery. To some, this may sound like torture— but I imagine those people wouldn’t be reading this article. The trek to Rancho Cucamonga is absolutely worth it, as Sour Cellars very rarely misses the mark. Our favorite this year was Pie Pusher, a decadent cherry pie of a tart bomb. Sour beer without cherries is like Simon without Garfunkel: very good on its own, legendary when paired.

Une Annee Niles Flight Sour Beer

Une Annee: Le Grand Monde 2018-5

Saying Une Annee’s beers are “sour” is like saying Kyrie Irving is “good at basketball.” You may be right, but you’re not fully expressing the extremity of the situation. Those with an aversion to the more enamel-melting acidic sour beers may exercise caution with Une Annee’s fruity barrel-aged wonders. However, we want sour breweries to drop more acid than Hunter S. Thompson. It was impossible to choose one sour beer from this Niles-based brewery for this list, but Le Grand Monde stands out.

Urban Artifact: The Tumi

YELLOW MOMBIN. We’d never heard of this Brazilian fruit until we tried this beer at Cincinnati’s Urban Artifact, part of their Curiosity Series. Imagine a banana and a mango had a wonderfully sour baby. That’s what you get in this rich delicacy, with a thick, puree-esque mouthfeel that sends your spirit straight to a South American beach.

The Veil Brewing: Longoven: Chapter 1

The term “oyster sour” would send a shiver up the spine of most beer drinkers, but have faith in the masterminds at The Veil. Their collaboration with the titular Longoven, a Richmond restaurant, involved seaweed, sea beans, and whole oysters. The smell is definitively oceany, but the flavor, while saltwatery, is also buttery, winey, and magnificently balanced.

What were your favorite sour beers in 2018? What are you looking forward to trying in 2019? Please let us know in the comments below! Check out our list of our best brewery experiences of 2018, and keep an eye out for a few more Best of 2018 lists coming in the next few days!

The Veil Richmond Flight Russell Emily

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