09 October 2013

Turning sour

The beers at Borefts, like many of the attendees, offered a generous insight into what's currently in fashion. It seems to be all about the sour these days, a modern twist on styles developed before ingredients were first-rate and hygiene was everything it is now. If you don't have some sort of hacked gose in the line-up you may as well be brewing... er... no: there isn't really a style that's too unhip to be ever resurrected ironically, is there? Anyway, Italian brewery Toccalmatto had a gose, made with only the poshest of salt, unspecified red berries, and called Salty Angel. It's a cloudy pinkish colour, looking and smelling for all the world like a Bellini. Lots of clean mineral dryness overlaid with fresh fruit and just a gentle seaside spray of salt in the finish. A bit lacking in flavour, perhaps, but nicely refreshing and quite quaffable at just 4.3% ABV. Not that it's the sort of thing one would expect to arrive in pints.

While we're on nearly-extinct German beerstyles, Thornbridge brought a Berliner Weisse, a straight-up unenhanced one at 3.5% ABV and a sickly pale hazy yellow in colour. The grainy aroma is spot on but any sourness is pretty much absent, leaving it clean, crisp and lightly lemony. Simple and pleasant. For proper Thornbridge sourness there was Sour Brown, which does exactly what it says on the label: light vinegar, some balsam spicing, and a touch of coffee. It has a lot in common with Belgian oud bruin though I think HP Sauce may also be a distant cousin.

Just edging into sour territory is The Kernel's Bière de Table: a 4.6% ABV pale yellow saison with very dry, almost crunchy, grains and a refreshing hint of citrus. A mild vinegar undertone qualifies it for this post while also enhancing its cleansing refreshment power.

A few were more funky than sour, showing clear signs of brettanomyces action. Smonk by Struise was probably the loudest example of this: masses of earthy, woody, organic flavours but lightened nicely by some cherry and smoke, all wrapped up in a 7% ABV red-brown package. Upping the strength and enhancing the hops, there was Laugar's Laino Basatia at 9% ABV where the barnyard brett sits next to resiny hops and there's lots of lovely incense spicing and fresh herbs. Mikkeller's It's Alive appears to be based on a fairly straightforward honey-coloured brett ale but the edition I tried was aged with mangoes in a chardonnay barrel which added a lovely fresh grape juiciness to the horseblanket funk.

A couple of beers seemed to be going after the Flemish red flavour profile: one my favourites. Alvinne's Foederbier is a cheery bright orange, though cloudy with no head to speak of. It's mildly tart with some red berries and just a kiss of old oak. Very drinkable and refreshing. De Molen upped the ante, as is their wont, with Zure Kersen Bom (above left), a 6.2% ABV blood red beer featuring sharp, jangling wood and vinegar, weighted with balsamic resin. It sounds severe but there's also a vast quantity of very sweet ripe cherries added for balance and adding a wonderful complexity.

That brings us to the end of the sour set. We'll have something more orthodox tomorrow.

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