They’re tart and fruity, bright yellow, plum purple and ruby red. Sour beers have spontaneously come on to the beer scene here in Coastal Virginia, with their mouth-puckering popularity and even offering a quirky way to quench a thirst on a hot summer’s day. Made with some pretty strange alchemy, some sours are barrel-aged in oak and mixed with fruit and supplements of wild yeast strains, while others are created through the exposure to native bacteria in the air. No matter the method, these offbeat beers keep tantalizing tastes. So if you’re looking for something wild, things are about to get funky—here are four local sour brews you’ll want to try.
Photo by David Uhrin
Reaver Beach Brewing, Virginia Beach
The Reaver retains its golden glow in the glass and hints of nectarine tang and orange zest after fermenting with a blend of bacteria, wild yeast and Brettanomyces for its barnyard funk as a farmhouse-style sour. Before The Reaver ages in oak barrels, it spends time in the brewery’s stainless steel coolship, a vessel the shape of a massive shallow tub where it collects a compound of native microflora through open-air exposure. Owner and Brewmaster Justin MacDonald’s artistry and rigorous craftsmanship are requited with The Reaver’s reputation as a sensational sour beer distinctive to Coastal Virginia.
Muireann Sour Ale
Tradition Brewing Co., Newport News
She’s a siren singing with tart notes of passion fruit berries, meringue and lemongrass, and on the eyes she pours a mysterious murky red. With one sip, the mercurial Muireann is smooth and lures you in; with another taste on the tongue she’s seductively sour and sweet. Offered as a seasonal, make sure to get your hands on Muireann before she slips away.
Commonwealth Brewing Company, Virginia Beach
Joining Commonwealth’s repertoire of wild and sours aged in wine barrels and fermented with fruit, Tinta Rosa sangria-style gose is a tart take on the Portuguese and Spanish wine fruit punch. The rosy pink drink is packed with a sour, juicy and sweet medley of plums, pomegranate, raspberries and orange. Grab yourself a glass or crack open a can and relax, as Tinta Rosa pairs pleasantly with a Chic’s Beach summer day near the bay.
Mermaid’s Scorn Tidewater Gose
Benchtop Brewing Company, Norfolk
This briny brew speaks well to how Benchtop sits atop of the beer scene, as Owner and Brewer Eric Tennant, attentive to his agricultural roots, taps into Tidewater tastes with the oyster gose. It flaunts flavors that are both sour and salty from 200 local oysters mashed into the boil and Lactobacillus bacteria in the kettle. Mermaid’s Scorn is then adorned with coriander and a garnishing touch of refreshing lemon zest, making it opaque, pale yellow and a gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival.
Editor's Note: Some of these sour beers are limited, check your local brewery for their availability.