The Session 129 - Missing Local Beer Styles
Brussels Beer City is hosting The Session #129 – Beer Blogging Friday – for November 2017. And the theme of this month is "Missing Local Beer Styles". In 2017 it might seem odd to think that there are beer styles missing from our local markets. We seem to be living in an era of almost ubiquitous choice - where almost every style of beer is available to us either in bars or online, and where new styles quickly break out from their local markets to be brewed by craft or independent breweries around the world. Often though, this choice feels like one between an IPA, a session IPA, a double IPA, a NEIPA, a black IPA (although, really?), West Coast IPA, fruited IPA, etc.
You get the picture.
Local Means local
And outside of large metropolitan areas, areas with a large craft beer culture, or regions without recourse to online shopping the spread of different or new styles can remain limited. That's not even to mention the local or regional styles that disappeared in the last 50 years. And that's why the theme of this month is styles missing from your local brewing scene's canon. And you can take local as a relative concept, depending on your context - your town or municipality, county, region, even country if you really are isolated. And local also means brewed locally, not just available locally. Essentially: what beer style would you like to see being brewed in your local market that is not yet being brewed? Simple enough question.
Here are some themes you could consider:
- The "Dodo" - a local or regional style that has died out and not yet experienced the same revival of the likes of London Porter or Göse.
- The "One-hit Wonder" - that one one-off or limited-run style from a local brewery that was never made again, to your eternal dissatisfaction
- The "I used to be cool once" - a style that burst through in the first flushes of the "craft beer" revolution, but which has since died a death, albeit one now much-lamented
- The "Phoenix" - narrowing your focus from the style to a specific exemplar of said style, that is no longer in production, from a particular brewery – think of the birth-death-rebirth cycle of a Thomas Hardy’s Ale for example.
- The "Contrarian" - you could always take the contrarian approach, and call out a style being produced locally that you’d really rather not see again. Ever.
Why Oud Bruin
This is a beer style that the casual beer drinker will perhaps know little — or nothing — about.
So, why would I choose this rather obscure — in an American sense — beer style to highlight styles missing from my local brewing scene? For one, it's an incredible group of beers and after some research I have found only two Maryland breweries making this beer — see Maryland Oud Bruin below. Perhaps more important than my desire to see more of this beer style from local breweries and what this style represents and what it reflects about our local breweries.
About Oud Bruin
According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines for beer styles: Oud Bruins, not restricted to, but concentrated in Flanders, are light to medium-bodied, deep copper to brown in colour. They are extremely varied, characterized by a slight vinegar or lactic sourness and spiciness to smooth and sweet. A fruity-estery character is apparent with no hop flavor or aroma. Low to medium bitterness. Very small quantities of diacetyl are acceptable. Roasted malt character in aroma and flavor is acceptable, at low levels. Oak-like or woody characters may be pleasantly integrated into overall palate. Typically old and new Brown ales are blended, like Lambics.
History: An “old ale” tradition, indigenous to East Flanders, typified by the products of the Liefman brewery (now owned by Riva), which has roots back to the 1600s. Historically brewed as a “provision beer” that would develop some sourness as it aged. These beers were typically more sour than current commercial examples. While Flanders red beers are aged in oak, the brown beers are warm aged in stainless steel.
Classic examples: Ichtegem Oud Bruin, Liefmans Goudenband, Liefmans Liefmans Oud Bruin, Petrus Oud Bruin, Riva Vondel, Vanderghinste Bellegems Bruin.
Favorite Oud Bruin
You see many breweries listed from Belgian and domestic — to the USA — from such breweries as The Bruery, New Glarus and Brewery Ommegang. A recent discovery is the Brunetta Oud Bruin Ale from Ommegang. I have recommended this beer freely and have not received any negative feedback to date, only praise as it has been flying off the shelves.
Let's call it research. I had a bottle of Liefmans Goudenband that I've been saving for a special occasion and thought this was an excellent opportunity to open it. It poured with a thin tan head that dissipated quickly. It tasted rich, tart and quite drinkable. Again, re-enforcing my love for the style.
I have found sour beers a project. These are not my normal beer choices but I’ve discovered some styles very enjoyable. Among these are the red Flanders (West Flanders) and the oud bruin (sometimes labeled as East Flanders). And while I typically gravitate to any beer that has been aged on wood, the oud bruin is not. Or at least, that is how it is described in the beer style guides, while I've found some beers labeled at oud bruin that state they have been aged in wood. Some brewers do take a few liberties with labeling a beer within a particular style. But I find that combination of dark fruit sweetness offsetting the tartness of the sour is irresistible.
Maryland Oud Bruin
The Manor Hill Barrel Project Oud Bruin was recently awarded the Maryland Craft Beer Competition Silver medal in the American Wild Ale category.
Manor Hill Brewing - Barrel Project is a wild series fermented in sherry casks with brettanomyces and lactobacillus with an 8% ABV. It has recent entries on Untappd, so I will be seeking it out. Brewers notes: We began with a brown ale base beer that we fermented in Oloroso Sherry Casks. Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus were introduced during fermentation. The resulting beer will display aromas of oak and dark fruit. The flavor profile will begin moderately tart and will progress into more complex notes of spice, dark fruit, and hay with a dry finish.
While the Maryland beer industry and culture are growing dramatically and there are some fine sours being made there simply are not many oud bruins.
As the beer tasting palates seem to be gravitating away from bitterness overload of IPAs and toward more balanced and exciting tartness, then these beers and I expect this style will become more popular with beer drinkers and brewers looking for new places to play. And Maryland brewers and beer drinkers will do the old brown dance.
Session #129 Roundup
You can read other writings on the theme of "Missing Local Beer Styles" on the Roundup. Enjoy good beer and beer writing. Cheers!