Family Friendly Sour

Michael Donato, August 17, 2016

I bring beer when I go places, or when I have people over. You probably do too. As what I’m regularly drinking myself gets further away from what could be considered normal, it’s getting a little harder to decide what beer would be the best choice. That extreme stout with coffee and/or oatmeal and/or barrel aging and/or pepper is not exactly an easy beer for everyone.

We’re too quick to shy away from bringing the sour into mixed company. Sour is an intense beer flavor, and is treated delicately with big warning flags and alerts. It’s so different than the more normal beer most of us were first introduced to that it feels like a higher level that we needed to build to. This is especially true in America, over the last decade or so, as bitter hop-forward IPAs were the trademark of craft beer.

Widen the scope and look outside of just beer. Sour is not a weird flavor, or a strange one. Certainly not to the level that bitter is. Kids drink lemonade, eat sour patch kids, and enjoyall sorts of sour apple and sour cherry candies. We’re no stranger to sour or tart flavors, so sour beer can actually be a good beer to bring to a party, especially a hot summer pool party.

The options weren’t great when I spotted the six-pack of Lagunitas Aunt Sally. I initially was going to get a generic Long Trail Ale before realizing it was more than a year old. I was repeatedly drawn back to the Aunt Sally. Described as a ‘sweet-tart sour mash sour’ made it sound a lot like a fizzy lemonade drink.

The aroma is a little on the funky side, but it’s definitely hoppy. It’s dry-hopped, so that stands out. Dank pine specifically. The taste is excellent. Sweet-tart sour mash does pretty much nail it. It’s definitely tart, but tart the way good fizzy lemonade is tart, not enamel-stripping acrid like some straight sour beers. The dry pine hoppiness is a background note in the taste, it’s more a full-bodied, slightly-fruity beer. It’s got nice crispness, and enough malt backbone to add some sweetness that the sour turns into dryness and a thirst for another sip.  

I brought this to a family BBQ and it was well received by casual beer drinkers, even ones that don’t particularly like IPAs. I probably should’ve brought more since I ended up drinking Budweiser before too much longer.

There seem to be more and more easy-drinking sour beers on the market today, beyond just Aunt Sally.  Past  sessionable sours, there are Berliner Weisses and Goses that have been popping up a lot lately, and many are terrific options to bring to a gathering. 

Michael can be found on Twitter and Untappd and is often slightly sour himself. You can also email him at