Tag Archives: Oud Bruin

Decoding Duchesse and Re-inventing Rodenbach

Let’s talk about Flemish Ale or Red Ale or Flanders Ale or Sour Brown Ale or Oud Bruin. Confused yet? Well I usually am when looking at this ‘family’ of beers so I thought I would do a little beer geek research and try to figure out just what defines this style.

For quite some time now I knew at least one thing for certain, I like Duchesse De Bourgogne.

Duchesse is described by the brewery as “Belgian top-fermented reddish-brown ale, a blend of 8 and 18 months old beers following the careful maturation in oak casks.” Sour? Check. Malty? Check. Carbonated? Check. Okay I’m on board.

The problem became how to find like-minded beers. Do I ask for a sour beer? A Belgian beer? A brown beer? A wild ale? A red ale? All of the above? Will the beer store clerk ridicule and mock my lack of knowledge?

In Tasting Beer Mosher describes sour brown ales as having two regional focal points. One in West Flanders and one in East Flanders. Like many great styles the defining hallmarks of these beers (oak aging and the blending of young and old beers) were merely common practice. As these beers fell out of general favour they became regional specialties.

In West Flanders the defining beer is ‘red’ Rodenbach and in East Flanders the defining beer is ‘brown’ Liefmans Goudenband. Each region using different methods to sour their beer and different processes for aging though not exclusively.

Rodenbach

 

Eventually, as all good beer styles do, these sour red-brown beers caught the eye of North American breweries who sought to reinvigorate and reintroduce this historical ale to an eager population of new world beer nerds.

New Belgium La Folie, Jolly Pumpkin La Roja, The Bruery Oude Tart, The Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale, Deschutes The Dissident not to mention our very own Yaletown Brewing Co. Oud Bruin, are just a wee few of the examples.

 

Oud Tart

Purists, by which I mean hard-core beer geeks and style guide enthusiasts, proffer that the West Flanders/East Flanders divide marks two distinct styles the Flanders Red Ale and the Flanders Brown Ale/Oud Bruin. Is it starting to feel like this may escalate into some sort of gang-like allegiances? But in reality, my reality anyway, call them what you will these styles all fall under that most glorious and ever-expanding umbrella called sour beer. The old world variations were never hard and fast and the new incarnations of the style are neither. So red or brown what are you waiting for? Get on the bandwagon!

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They say you can’t go home again

Philosophically speaking this rings true but when visiting the place of one’s birth you can take time to try lots of different beers so in a way (a somewhat obscure way) you can make it feel like home again by bringing your wonderful beer geekiness with you in your travels.

Okay so that probably doesn’t make sense but I am stretching for an introduction to highlight the fact I am back from Ontario after an extended visit with the family and while there I visited a couple of local tap rooms and tried lots of interesting craft beers that never make their way out west.

Specifically, I was in Peterborough, Ontario a mid-size city that boasts a couple of breweries, The Old Stone Brewing Co. and The Publican House Brewery and a couple of tap rooms St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room and  Ashburnham Ale House.

Each time I come home I make a concerted effort to try all the Ontario and Eastern US beers I can find as well as visit anything new that falls on my radar.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House is new to Peterborough and it is located in the old part of town known historically as Ashburnham (now East City). I was really excited when I read about this tap room, local beers, rotating taps, eco decor and a great location. The Ale House is a large space heavy on the wood and leather accents and equally heavy on the meat menu. Seeing that me and the vegan hubby were not going to be eating we decided to head on over to the bar to enjoy some craft beer.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House

In an almost completely empty space we were seated, immediately asked what we wanted and then left to fend for ourselves. Inquiring about the rotating taps we were told the names of the beers and the ABV with no real description, when I asked again another server gave me a totally different ABV -do people really only pick a beer based on the alcohol content???

The bottles were listed on the menu but no descriptions were provided. Somehow I expected the staff to be a bit more enthusiastic about the beer in a tap room! After looking over the bottle and tap selection we decided to try a flight of everything on tap but sadly they have no flights and no small pours.

Overall, I was really disappointed in Ashburnham Ale House and I hope they get some passionate beer geeks to make this space come alive.

 

Thankfully we were able to head to St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room, which beer for beer may be one of the best tap rooms I have ever been to. Their beer menu is extensive focusing on Belgian beer but also boasting a nice selection of Canadian options. They always manage to find something unique to have on tap and the rare bottles are numerous (the photo below is one of three pages!).

St. Veronus

St. Veronus

While there the hubby and I tried a couple of Rodenbachs a (mildy) sour Flanders Red Ale, the Bacchus a Flanders Oud Bruin described (accurately) as tasting like flat coke and the Gueuze Fond Tradition a tart unsweetened lambic. All the beers were interesting and the server really knew his stuff. Oh and did I mention the food? Well it is incredible, savoury, filling and creative with options to fit even the pickiest eater in our party.

Stay tuned for more of my beer explorations in Ontario…


Baby, why are you so Sour?

Somewhat contrary to my fellow beer geeks, when I first started exploring craft beer one of the more challenging styles quickly emerged as my favourite and that style is soured beer. I  know this category of beer is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and in fact many people are initially turned off by the often over-powering tartness of  a gueze or an oud bruin but if you think you are not a fan of wild ales you really do not know what you are missing.

 

Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House

Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House

 

Sour beer is technically not a style in and of itself, rather it is a process of using bacterial infection to impart tartness while fermenting and/or beer, as such under this broad category there is a range of flavours and, well, sourness from sweet and fruity lambics, to the deep and rich sour brown ales, to the accessible Flanders red ales, to the straight lambics, which offer no apologies for their tart kick.

Historically, lambic beers (a style of beer brewed with aged hops and a high proportion of unmalted wheat) were spontaneously fermented. That is to say you basically do the opposite of everything you learned in homebrew school and intentionally infect your wort with some of the many microscopic critter floating around in the air. The different resultant bacterial infections all work to ferment the beer while it ages in wooden barrels (the wooden barrel being a natural haven for microbes). Ensuring consistency is near impossible for the sour beer brewer so the resultant batches are blended to achieve the desired tartness levels.

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, when Lindemans expanded their brewery they took a portion of their old wall and bolted it in their new building in order to preserve their signature mix of beneficial bugs.

 

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In modern times, the souring of beer is less by chance i.e. opening a window and hoping for the best but really not by much.

Bacterial agents like lactobacillus, brettanomyces and pediococcus are systematically introduced to the fermentation process; however, the outcome remains somewhat unpredictable and the time commitment to brew a sour beer is significant compared pretty much any other beer style think years versus months. Blending remains the most viable means to ensure the sourness of your beer is at a level that is drinkable.

 

Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales

Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales

 

Once the sole domain of dedicated Belgian brewers devoted to the art of brewing sour beers, wild ales are carving out an impressive niche in Europe and North America. Russian River, Cascade Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin and Epic Ales are all making a name for themselves in pursuit of excellent sourness.

A little more north Oud Bruin from Yaletown Brewing Company and Driftwood’s Bird of Prey Flanders Red are showing Canadian brewers are also getting on the sour bandwagon.

 

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Is sour beer the next big thing in the craft beer world? Well, not to self-promote (too much) I have to say I saw this one coming for quite sometime now. I even wrote a post called ‘Love is a Sour Delight’ back in February of 2011 espousing the wonder that is sour beer. If you require further confirmation, you just need walk into any decent beer store and observe the number of barrel-aged, wild and wine-blended beers now on the market.

As we move into warmer weather I urge my fellow beer geeks to crack open a bottle of sour beer on a warm summer night and tell me this isn’t one of the best affirmations they have ever had that craft beer will one day rule the world.

 


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