Little Looks are the reviews of brews that may be new to the market, a local beer I want to shout about, or simply a classic revisited.
Sour beers are the strange cousin; very much a part of the beer family, gets invited to all the do’s, but turns up at weddings wearing a hawaiian shirt; many folk just don’t ‘get it’. I however like the quirks of a sour brew, so I’m pleased to see that Brewery De Brabandere’s Petrus beers are being imported into the UK market; a selection of “blonde based, high fermented, oak aged ales with a distinctive sour taste”.
Now these may be new to the regular UK market, but they’re not new on the Belgian scene. Far from it. Brewery De Brabandere dates back to the 19th Century, and the Petrus beers were championed by international beer writer Michael Jackson back in the 1990’s, naming the Aged Pale the ‘Mother Beer’ and persuading the brewery to release the beer instead of keeping it aside as just a traditional blending ale.
On first pouring the Oud Bruin- a traditional Flemish red brown beer- aromas of Haribo cola bottles flood through. This beer sits at 5.5% although you wouldn’t know it as it drinks lighter than that. Aged in oak foeders for no less than two years, this variant of the brand is a blend of 33% Petrus Aged Pale (a.k.a Mother Beer) and 67% of a young, brown beer. Taste-wise it proved to be a lot smoother and less sour than I expected with a distinct sweetness playing to the palate and a fruitful tartness just creeping into the edges; raisin and apricot very present with an oak depth in the background. An enjoyable, if not overwhelmingly exciting beer, one that should probably be paired with food to bring out its subtle nuances.
The sourness is turned up a notch on pouring the Aged (Mother Ale) Pale, when even the aromas are acidic, getting the taste buds whirring with a lemon yoghurt vibe. This is a 100% foeder aged beer, providing the base for the other beers in the series. Lemon zest and pith, tart sherbet, green apple skin and gooseberry wash over the palate in a refreshing, almost cleansing manner with Champagne-like properties; dry ‘n sharp; pushing you to take another sip. People are often put off by the notion of sour beers but pop this in a Champagne flute and make no mention of beer and folks would drink this down in the same manner as they quaff dry sparkling whites at weddings. Beer writer Michael Jackson got this right when he championed this beer back in the 90’s, promising to buy an entire foeder if the brewery agreed to bottle and release the beer.
Last up is the Aged Red, which is the most beautiful to look at out of the three, boasting a Port red hue with aromas of cherry liqueur, and vanilla (cherry pie and custard?!). This has a thicker mouthfeel than the previous beers too, very smooth and sweet at first, then yoghurt-tart with an underlying dryness. Cherry-cola appears alongside burnt caramel and marzipan, as this beer coats the palate. The cherry element verges on intense and comes close to being a bit cough-sweet in flavour but stops short relying on the burnt caramel and other flavours holding it back.
Will It Blend?
Emphasis is being placed on the blendability (is that a word?!) of Petrus, and so it is also being imported as a 4-bottle pack a.k.a the Petrus Sour Power Pack, with a pre-blended version of the beer. It’s hoped that this will encourage drinkers to explore beer blending, a concept that’s been alive and well for a long time, yet not necessarily one that the casual beer drinker is aware of. A novelty then, to some folks at least, and one that may help bring Sour beers further into the mainstream and away from the fringe. With the likes of Cloudwater encouraging the blending of two of their recent DIPA releases it’s something that people may be more aware of. That said, I think the branding of the Petrus blending pack could be a little more simple & classic and less novelty looking, especially when some of the results actually border on classy- the blend of Aged Pale and Aged Red produced something very reminiscent of a champagne cocktail. Will sour beers be making tracks onto supermarket shelves in the same manner as Double IPAs have in recent times? I’m not so sure, but having these Petrus beers on UK shelves is a good start in helping turn heads towards the style.
Disclosure: these beers were sent to me for review purposes by a representative of the brand. I didn’t pay for the beers, but I do not believe that has affected my opinion