Warmer weather gets me thinking about enjoying a refreshing and crisp beer on a sunny patio. More and more these days, when I want that refreshing brew, I seek out the tart relief of a sour beer. The flavor profile of these concoctions can be naturally prohibitive to some drinkers, but once a taste for them is acquired, there’s nothing more satisfying.
A wide range of styles falls under the “sour” umbrella term: lambic, fruit lambic, gueze, Flanders red, oud bruin, gose, Berliner Weisse, Brett beer, and others. Luckily, newcomers to this puckery substance don’t have to dive into the deep end to gain an appreciation. Chicago has a number of breweries producing more sessionable sours that have a light, approachable body.
Whiner Beer Company
Whiner’s beautiful and unique taproom inside the Plant, a collaborative of sustainable food businesses focused on closed-loop systems in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, is a must-visit, not only to sample the array of sours and barrel-aged blends, but also to feel like you’re drinking in a getaway hideout. Bubble Tub, its kettle-soured saison ale with watermelon, is probably my number one summah quencher—just a light tartness tickles the tongue, backed up by a pleasingly mild watermelon sweetness.
When you’re ready to get into some of the heavier sours, Une Annee makes an array of lambics and wild ales. (Note: Not all wild ales are sours and vice versa; they are two separate styles, but many wild ales can have a funky or sour quality.) They’ll get sour with seemingly every fruit on the farmer’s stand, from traditional lambic varieties like framboise (raspberries) and kriek (cherries) to creations of their own design, such as wild ales fermented with kiwi, plum, or prickly pear.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Jolly Pumpkin expanded from its Ann Arbor, Michigan, origins in 2017, opening a casual eatery and pub in Hyde Park. As the nation’s first all-sour brewery, JP’s wide variety of beers come from years of experience, and its delicious pub fare is the perfect companion to bring out the complexities of this style.
Revolution has become Illinois’s largest producing craft brewery based on its reputation for excellent IPAs and barrel-aged stouts, but its recent introduction of session sours, like Freedom of Speach, gives its portfolio a broad spectrum of beer flavors. Don’t feel like a Rev Pils? Grab a 4.5% ABV Freedom of Speach, the perfect fit for your lawn mower’s cup holder.
Off Color Brewing
Off Color is a funky place. The fact that it is successful in Chicago is a testament to how well this community of beer drinkers can comprehend beer styles outside of American norms. I don’t believe it brews a single IPA; instead, it prefers traditionally Belgian and German styles, and since it executes these styles to perfection, Off Color is turning people on to a fuller range of beer. Troublesome, a gose-style beer, is an excellent introduction to a world of funkiness and subtle refinement.
Middle Brow Beer Co.
The new Middle Brow Bungalow on Armitage is a stylish retreat where simple and savory food meets pleasantly funky beers. Swing by the brewpub to sample its latest offerings or look for its cans at the liquor store. Bloc Party Raz is a delightful Berliner Weisse with raspberries that will start a tasty party but not crash it with too much booze.
Noon Whistle Brewing
The Lombard brewery Noon Whistle makes a lot of beer. Or at least a lot of different beer styles—Brut IPAs, dozens of Hazy IPAs, stouts, barleywines, and sours. It has a Sour Smack Series with seasonal variations on its core Berliner Weisse, Face Smack. Seek out the summer offering, Guava Gose Smack, for warm-weather mouth bliss.
Hopewell Brewing Co.
So many of the elements of this brewery call out for enjoying a day drink in the taproom: the floor-to-ceiling storefront windows, the bright and joyful design, and the session-ably delicious brews. Don’t miss its raspberry sour, Clover Club, when you press pause on daylight obligations and drop in for some beer time.
Lo Rez Brewing
This Pilsen brewery and taproom has a fun-loving atmosphere and passion-driven approach to beermaking. For proof of the latter, its Shortcut series of Berliner Weisse varietals has been done with strawberry, tamarind, and mango chili.
Blue Nose Brewery
This suburban Hodgkins brewery has an obvious love for the sour stuff, regularly keeping at least a few on draft. One of its regular offerings, Cool Hair, is a nice, dry raspberry sour, which at 7% ABV is surprisingly quite drinkable.