02 February 2009

Not dead yet

Reference and review books about beer have never interested me. Why would I want to read someone else's opinions about beers, most of which I'll never get to drink? That used to be my position on beer blogs too, back before I realised that there was a whole interactive side to blogging which makes it much more than a solitary activity. And I don't have to spend my beer money on blogs. But I still have no intention of building up a library of beer reference books -- that's knowledge I'd prefer to pick up first hand.

However, a well-meaning family member bought me a copy of Roger Protz's 300 Beers To Try Before You Die for Christmas. There was a time when I feared that if I ever owned this book I'd be consumed by trying to tick as many of the entries as I could, but I'm not bothered now. I haven't even counted how many of the 300 I've tasted. I have had a damn good flick through it though. One of the many I've never had jumped out at me as an odd inclusion: Liefmans Oud Bruin.

Sure, Liefmans are a very well respected Belgian brewery (now owned by Duvel Mortgaat), but oud bruin? The nearly-non-alcoholic Dutch beer, typically packed with saccharine and which always seems to come with a confused look and an explanation of what it is every time I ask a Dutch waitress to bring me one -- something I do quite often as I really rather like it, especially Heineken's. How could an oud bruin, no matter who brewed it, be a classic? This had been troubling me through January, and when I saw a bottle on sale in Beer Mania I leapt on it.

'Course, if I'd paid attention to the details given by Roger it would have all started making sense a bit sooner. Instead of the typical sub-3% ABV, Liefmans Oud Bruin is a whopping 5%: rocket fuel! It pours thinner and much fizzier than any other oud bruin, and the first taste confirmed what I'd thought: it's not really oud bruin at all. Daft Belgians.

On top of the light and fizzy body there's a distinct tangy -- almost vinegary -- sourness strongly reminiscent of Flemish red ales like Rodenbach. At the back there's an earthy, almost brett-like, character which is barely discernable.

I feel a bit guilty now for scoffing at Nørrebro's HP-sauce-like Oud Bruin, because it's quite plainly (now) an attempt to emulate this, the pair seemingly representative of a sub-genre of oud bruin I was hitherto unaware of. Time I stopped being surprised when I encounter them. Though my preference is still for the low-strength treacly sugar-bombs, weirdo that I am. But hey, it's not like I'm writing a book.


  1. I have to admit I bought "300 Beers...", but I'm in no way even tempted to want to tick them off. It's more like coffee table beer porn for me. Same with the late Mr. Jackson's 500 Great Beers book. Nice to pull out and flick through with someone who may not have seen nor heard of the vast majority of them. Like my German colleagues for example. Someone gave me a copy before I left Ireland, so I have two now. One for the office and one for home ;)

  2. I've got the book too, it's not bad as a reference to flick through every now and then. It's more interesting to compare whether I'd choose the beers that have been chosen.

    The book seems to have dated and aged very quickly though IMO.

  3. I don't get into ticking books, but I do have, like and understand "Principles of Brewing Science" by George Fix. When I refer to it, it makes me feel that my PhD in organic chemistry is not going to waste!

  4. The Dutch and Belgian oud bruins are clearly two different categories. Petrus Oud Bruin and Ichtegems Oud Bruin are another two examples of the Belgian oud bruin being stronger, but also having a sour edge.

  5. I have quite a few of this type of book. I loved pouring over them a few years ago, but now that things have improved so much here I don't bother with them any more.

    Tim, I have Fix's book too. It is a wonderful guide to brewing science. I reckon every all grain brewer should have a a copy.

  6. Thanks for clearing that up, grove, I figured it was something like that.

    I loved pouring over them a few years ago
    Annoying Grammar Pedant says: that's a waste of beer.