Thursday, 31 August 2017

Tasting: Flanders Brown Ale (Oud Bruin)

Wow, talk about a long time coming! Some people have been curious about how this Flanders Brown - a malty, fruity, sour style that I brewed in March of 2014 - turned out, so my apologies for taking so long to post a follow-up. Although, to be fair, a lot of the waiting was because it took a long time for the beer to be ready! Nah, that's not fair; I started writing this post months ago and it's still taken me this long to post it. All the blame is on me.

I knew from my previous experience brewing a Flanders Red that this wouldn't be ready/sour enough in any short amount of time, so I basically tucked it away somewhere and tried to forget about it. The Wyeast Roeselare blend takes time (it's a mixture of a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, a Lactobacillus culture, a Pediococcus culture, and two Brettanomyces strains), and this beer confirmed for me what I had discovered with the Flanders Red - it really helps to pitch bottle dregs of other sour beers if you want to get it quite sour. After many months on its own, the Roeselare just wasn't getting it to where I wanted it to be; after pitching various bottle dregs over the next six months or more, the beer had changed significantly.

Using a blend of that many bugs and yeasts, plus throwing in bottle dregs, basically confirms that you'll really never be able to recreate the same beer twice. But I'm ok with that; that's kind of the beauty with most sour beers, no? And in case anyone is interested, here's a summary of the dregs that I did pitch for this batch, and when they were pitched:

11/4/15 - Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio (bottled June, 2013)
16/4/15 - Prairie Funky Gold Amarillo
17/4/15 - Allagash Century Ale (bottled Feb, 2015)
24/4/15 - Allagash Coolship Cerise (bottled Jan, 2012)
29/4/15 - Cherry Neighborino (homebrewed Flanders Red)
13/6/15 - Jolly Pumpkin Sobrehumano Palena ‘ole (bottled May, 2012)
28/7/15 - Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella (bottled Jan, 2013)

By the time I took another gravity reading in September, 2015, the FG had dropped from 1.013 (where it was after a week of fermentation, and then still sat eight months later, right before I started pitching bottle dregs) to 1.009. The beer was tasting quite sour at this point, so I ended up bottling it a couple of weeks later. I made sure to add a full 5 gram pack of Lalvin EC-1118 wine yeast (rehydrated), to make sure the beer carbonated (wine yeast is better at a more acidic pH, compared to using something like US-05); I aimed for 2.5 vol CO2.

Once the beer carbonated (it definitely didn't get to 2.5 vol, which didn't surprise me), I immediately sampled it - hey, it had already had enough time, right? Thankfully, I was pretty happy with how it had turned out. I've been drinking it off and on since bottling over a year ago, and it has improved since my first taste. The sourness is definitely there - I took a pH reading from a degassed sample months ago, and it was at 3.38 - and the malt complexity is pretty much where I want it.

These non-kettle-soured sours (and don't get me wrong, I have nothing against kettle-soured beers) are truly wonderful to have on hand... when they turn out. They involve a hell of a lot of patience, but the waiting can really be worth it. Pulling one out of the cellar every now and then, to check on its progress and share with friends, is great to be able to do. The key is brewing them semi-frequently, so that you can start building up inventory. I'm trying hard to do this more often; I have a wine-barrel Flanders Red on the go, half bottled and half the batch now aging on blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, as well as a Blonde sour (think Russian River Temptation), with half of that batch aging on mangoes (I also plan to dry hop when I'm about ready to bottle). I've finally been doing better at actually following my own advice of brewing these beers more often; I actually just brewed another Oud Bruin a few weeks ago as well.

So, remember - buy some extra carboys and brew these beers often, be patient, and don't be afraid to experiment with hops, fruit, wood, sour bottle dregs etc. And did I mention be patient?


Appearance: Pours with a moderate-small, off-white head that fades very quickly to almost nothing. Body is dark brown/reddish, with excellent clarity.

Aroma: Plenty of sourness, making your mouth water with the first whiff; surrounded by dark fruit, and a medium caramel sweetness from the malt bill.

Taste: Nice balance of caramel malt character and fruity ester, with an emphasis on dark fruit. Finishes slightly sweet, with a high sourness factor... lots of mouth-puckering tartness, here (I would guess a lower pH than the 3.39 my meter gave).

Mouthfeel: Medium-light bodied, with low carbonation.

Overall: I think this turned out quite well; the amount of time this beer has had definitely hasn't hurt. These tasting notes are from two days ago, and I can say with surety that the beer has definitely progressed since initial tastings. Wish I could say I could replicate it exactly, but likely not going to happen!

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