Thursday, February 7, 2013

Not your Oude-anary Sour

I like my sours like I like my women, tart, with a champagne bottle and Belgian.

Sours, just like the rest of the beer world, are defined heavily by their region.  Belgian brewing history is written in tapestries on Trappist walls.  It is time honored and damned good, and has hordes of nerdy middle aged men hiring private investigators to find them bottles of that perfect trappist ale.  Nerds.

I never caught that bug.

But Belgian sours caught me.  Like the kid in your fourth grade class doing lines of crushed up smarties off his Hardy Boys books, I can't stop quaffing these tart punches to the palate.

I emphasize BELGIAN sours.  American breweries dipped into the styles popularity in around 2006, and as Americans do, messed with the formulas to create some stunning mouth twisters, and some horrific palate ruiners.

The popular Oudes (OOh-duh) fall into two categories: Oude Gueuze (OOh-duh Gyooze) and Oude Kriek (OOh-duh Creek).  Oude is the Dutch word for old, and yes I know this is a Belgian beer, it's not my fault they can't figure out what language to speak.  Old is in reference to the process.  Young (1 year) lambic is mixed with old (2-3 year lambic) for a second fermentation.  The young lambics still have some fermentable sugars, which is why a second fermentation is possible.

If you leave it at that, you have the Oude Gueuze.  When sour cherries are added to the second fermentation, you have the Oude Kriek.

Two delicious beers that make love to your tongue in ways that would make Al Green blush.

I will be reviewing the two oudes made by Oud Beersel, a brewery that has been in operation since 1882 and specializing in lambics.  In 2005, it was bought from the original family and revitalized into an award winning brewery that carries on the lambic tradition.  Are there better?  Yes, but if this is your first forays into these sour lambics, you can't beat the price for the outstanding consistency and quality that Oud Beersel puts out.

Oude Gueuze: 
Once you get past the apple vinegar odor and fruit fly flash back nightmares, this beer is powerfully tasty.

It pours a cloudy amber gold with a frothy head and energetic carbonation that expends itself fast.  This beer moves through your palate and splashes it with a variety of flavors.  Green Granny Smith apples and some Golden Delicious pop up here and there too.  As the sourness sets in, it transitions into more of an apple peel and lemon taste.  It settles more sour than it started, but just remember, it's gonna be strongly sour throughout.

It finished with that malty bread/farmhouse cheese funk and grass.  I know that sounds weird, but all the flavors so far are earthy, so the wild yeast tang makes sense in this brew.

The mouthfeel is light and dry and a light pucker, but this gueuze is smooth.

I liken this to a really dry, more sour cider.  You will have those strong fruits, but far more sour.  There are better Gueuze out there, but for the amount, the money, and the utter smoothness of this beer, you can't beat it.

Solid 4 foamy heads out of five

Oude Kriek:
This is definatly my go to oude kriek.  Unlike a lot of breweries these days that try to market an artisinal beer, yet add sugars to reduce the farmhouse taste of the wild yeast and cut through the powerful tart, this beer adds nothing but happiness to your life.

Like O.D.B., oooh baby I like it raw.

Which is obvious from the first strong odors of vinegar from the aged lambic.  If you aren't prepared, it will catch you off guard.

This is a good balance between sour and tart.  It's sweet and crisp.  The cherries are sharp and cut the usual farmhouse taste you can get from those wild yeasts.  

Oud Beersel boasts that their Kriek has 400 grams of cherries per liter.  Which in our Imperial measurement system means... there's a lot of cherries, but this is not a Cerise.  The cherries give it a deep foundation.  A subtle richness.  Velvet.

It ends with the French cheese grassy-ness that is associated with the wild yeasts in aged lambics.

This is a rich and balanced brew that would be a great way to add some variety to your palate, or act as a gateway to sours and aged lambics.  It's velvety and sexy, and oh so good.  I'd call it the Prince of the Kriek world, even without the assless cheetah print pants.

4.5 heads out of 5

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