Petrus Sour Beer

The De Brabandere Brouwerij, located in Bavikhove, Belgium is 120 years old. Founded by Aldophe De Brabandere in 1894 it continues to be a five generation family operation. They pride themselves on the passion, authenticity and innovation of traditional brewing. One of their brands, Petrus Sour Beers, was a topic on the agenda for this years EBBC in Belgium.

Form the moment I saw this session on the itinerary I couldn’t wait to learn more about them. Sour beers are a type of beer I’m only recently exploring, so for me this was a topic I wasn’t prepared to miss. After a short talk about how the beers are brewed we got to sample them. This is when the fun began.

The Aged Pale, Wayne’s Favourite is 100% beer from the foeders. This beer is 7.3% ABV and a whopping 5/5 on the sour scale. Definitely a taste bud teaser. It totally livens up the mouth.This beer has won numerous awards worldwide. Its a gorgeous clear golden colour with a lovely citrus aroma.

We got to try Oud Bruin, which is a blend of 33% Petrus Aged Pale and 67% young brown beer. Its then aged for 2 years in oak foeders. On pouring its a reddish brown colour with a light sweet but tart aroma. Its mildly sour with a malty caramel, fruity taste. ABV 5.5% and 3/5 on the sour scale.

The Aged Red is a blend of 15% Petrus Aged Ale and 85% dubble bruin with cherries, also aged for 2 years. Personally this one was my favourite of the three. I loved the gorgeous colour on pour, lovely rich red. The smell of cherries was mouth watering. The taste was sweet and fruity. At an ABV of 8.5% this beer was slightly sour 2/5 on the sour scale.

So after sampling all three of these beers, we got to blend our own. This was great fun. They suggested we try 50/50 so I did. I blended the oud bruin with the Aged Pale and thought it was ok. I personally preferred these on their own. Next I tried a 50% aged red with 50% aged pale and thought this was lovely. The sourness of the aged pale was really complimented by the cherry flavour of the red. But what worked even better for me was the Aged Pale with just a dash of the  Aged Red.

For more info on these beers and the brewery check out their story

Life has more to offer than just beer,  but beer makes things even more enjoyable. 

I really do hope we get to see these in Ireland. Especially the pack so I can recreate my memories at home and enjoy these gorgeous beers.

A Belgian Odyssey

As I sit here writing this post – which is primarily a look back at the recent European Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference it strikes me that this in fact the 100th post on the blog. (100 might be a bit of a stretch as some are of our podcast episodes) but nonetheless. It is a significant milestone we have achieved here. It’s quite fitting we are now writing about our experiences.

Those of you that follow us on Twitter or who are friends with us on Facebook / Instagram etc will have seen that we were in Europe before the conference. We started off in the beautiful port city of Bordeaux in South West France, and met some great people – this will be covered in another post. We then stopped in Paris for a whistle stop tour less than 48 Hrs in length, but this didn’t stop us discovering some great parts of the Parisienne beer scene. 

This brings us nicely onto our visit to Brussels. I’m embarrassed to say this is my first visit to Brussels, not to Belgium, I know we stopped somewhere in Belgium on our way to Germany on a school tour when I was a teen. It was fitting that we were going to one of the most famous beer producing countries, even though they only produce 1% of the worlds beer, it’s a place steeped in tradition, pride and history. 

Ever since the itinerary for EBBC was published we’ve been really excited to see what Belgium has to offer. We are quite fortunate in Ireland we get a lot of really great Belgian beer however I was excited to try more of what Belgium has to offer, both from the long established brewers, and the new up and coming breed that are emerging in Belgium. 

We arrived, and registered. Once the formalities were completed we had a lovely lunch of local dishes with a range of diverse beers. Among the beers we tried was Dry Hopped Saison by Dupont which was brought to another level with the dry hopping. The hop used was Minstrel. However one that absolutely blew me away was the Timmermans Oude Geuze, a delightfully tart beer which served as a wonderful palate cleanser in between courses. However there was one beer that really challenged my perceptions and that was the Liefman’s Kriek Brut, for those who don’t know this is a mixed fermentation partial spontaneous and partial re-fermentation in the bottle. They put 13kg of Cherries in for maturation per hectolitre.  The guys from Liefmans even went a step further which included a chocolate covered cherry and a great blue cheese for matching. 

We then settled in for a packed afternoon agenda which included a press conference from the Belgian Family Brewers which gave us a very broad outline as to why they set up and what they hope to achieve – I’m going to discuss this in a later blog post. Which all lead up to the Live Beer Blogging, which saw us trying 12 beers from 12 different brewers in 1 hour. All the while blogging while trying. You can see my post on this here which i’ll fix up and add more notes to. Just imagine speed dating with beer. Next time, I might just do this on Instagram or Twitter! 

Following swiftly on from the Live blogging, was dinner in the beautiful Belga Queen which used to be a bank. It’s also home to the swankiest bathrooms i’ve ever seen. Here we were treated to more great hospitality and beers. One that I was particularly impressed with was the Mikkeller / Lindeman’s Spontanbasil collaboration. We finished off the evening in Delerium Cafe, however after a long day we moved on to the bar in the Hotel Metropole and a couple of beers on the terrace on a lovely summer’s evening. 

Janice and I with Aidan Sweeney of – Photo Courtesy of Aidan Sweeney

Day 2 was a similarly busy day – with a packed agenda again. Which undoubtedly contained the most hotly debated topic simply entitled “Beer Marketing – How does beer blogging and writing fit in to the broader subject of beer marketing?” Now I must confess I expected fireworks, as when I was chatting to Johnny of Brewdog in advance I got the impression that Jean had something to say. However we were led off by Sofie Vanrafelghem of Sofies World who is railing against gender marketing and is leading events to encourage women to try beer, especially those that say they don’t like beer! We also heard of the ridiculous restraints that Tom Young of Nogne has to deal with when they market their beers in Norway. Johnny Moran of Brewdog told us how Brewdog view bloggers as vital in spreading their company’s message of telling people about great beer. 

// the stage was set. You knew it was going to be interesting when Jean started with the dictionary definition of a brewer, and brewery. He then proceeded to rail against Mikkeller, and all gypsy brewers, going as far as describing these as Fake Brewers. Now, i think at this stage Jean had maybe misjudged his audience or even used a bad example. I don’t think his ire was specifically aimed at Mikkeller but more the private label operators who are setting up in Belgium who may brew the same beer for three companies and it’s not specifically identified where it’s brewed etc. This isn’t a uniquely Belgian problem. 

However when using Mikkeller as his example, who states where his beer is made on each bottle, was a little confusing. Ultimately the point he was trying to make was that Bloggers in particular are needed to state the truth – the truth isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t think bloggers would criticise someone like Mikkeller for being a gypsy brewer, as he’s always been upfront with that, but we do and often criticise some of the beer he produces. Thankfully this passed off without more than a difference of opinion, but it was an interesting insight into how some folks view Gypsy Brewers. 

I was privileged to be one of the Bloggers who got to give a five minute report on a subject of their choosing. Given the fledgling Irish Beer Scene, I spoke about this however it was really informative listening to Matt Curtis of Total Ales who gave a really good session on improving your photography on your blog, and importantly told us that you can achieve good results using your smart phone, just be sure to use natural sunlight and editing software. Also of particular interest was Jeffrey Michael the Biking Brewer who had cycled half ways around Europe to be with us! Also The Baron Ormskirk told us how it was possible to blog and produce audio for very little out lay. 

This and the next session The Science of Sour Beers – Presented by Petrus were my two favourite events. We got to try the main beers in the sour range by Brouwerij De Brabandere. The oud bruin, the aged red, and we also got to try the mother beer, the aged pale. Which as part of the history of this beer, credit has to be given to the late Michael Jackson who persuaded the brewery to unleash the mother beer on the public. But the fun didn’t stop there – we were encouraged to make our own blend of the beers as after all everyone’s palettes are different. Personally I loved the 100% Aged Pale, but give it a drop of the aged red and it was a different beast altogether. To that end I hope that they get a distributor here in Ireland – and i’ll start pestering the ones I know now!

We finished off with a monster meal courtesy of Pilsner Urquell where we were presented with a customised Beer Mug and the opportunity to pour our own pints of Pilsner Urquell which was being served from the tank which was shipped in the previous day. 

All in all we had a great time, was it perfect no, but it’s very hard to put something this big on with some things not being 100% but in the main it was a very positive experience. I certainly took a lot from it. We’ve so much to write about over the coming weeks and months we’ll revisit our visits to Bruges and Leuven also. Also – where else would you get to sample more than 125 beers! I don’t even know how accurate that count is! 

Live Beer Blogging @ EBBC – Courtesy of Belgian Family Brewers

So the scene is set – Hotel Marivaux in Brussels. At the table is Janice, Sarah Finney, Chris Elston, Steve Williams, Reuben Gray, Aidan Sweeney and myself! 

Tasting beer’s and writing about them

St Bernardus Extra 4 – 4.8% Single

The brewery was set up to commercialise & sell the beers of Westverleteren Abbey. They brewed under licence until 1992, when it expired and continued under St Bernardus brand that we know today. They’ve been around since 1946 and are the oldest member in the Belgian Family Brewers. Using the Sixtus yeast.

Recipes are from Westverleten – This beer has been out of production since 1976 – and revived by St Bernadus – more so an inspiration than a rebrewing of the beer. A Single refers to the amount of malt used rather than Single Hop etc. 

This is a Full flavoured beer with a low ABV – available on draught and bottles in 60 countries world wide, and a very appealing invite to their brewery which has a B&B.

Delerium Tremens – Strong Blonde Beer 8.5%

25 Yrs Old, originally started as a private label beer for Italy. The name came from when revenue tax men got drunk on it and called it Delerium. – use bottles to keep light out 100%

Instantly recognisable Pink Elephant on a stone like bottle. The phenolic character on the nose – very full bodied beer – hints of fruits in there. World famous beer at this stage.

Interesting they have a beer made by women for women? Called Deliria, using Saaz to dry hops.

Gouden Carolus – Classic 8.5%

Gouden Carolus are a 5th Generation Family since 1872 -however brewing has been taking place there since 1471 by single women living in the Convent. This information was recently discovered while doing research for trademark applications.

This beer was is an homage to their original beers. This is a classic strong Belgian brown ale. Subtle fruitiness and sweetness like plum and chocolate on the nose. Really tasty beer – great example of the style no wonder 50% of their beers are sold at home.

St Feuillien Grand Cru Dry Hopping 9.5% 

The brewery has been brewing since 1873 and are based in the South of Belgium near the French border
Here we have their Dry Hopped Grand Cru – subtle spices on the nose – this been has been in production since 2011. 3 Kinds of Hops – very well balanced given the ABV – and fermented using Champagne Yeast. All in all this is a very smooth beer – this beer is dangerously drinkable given it’s ABV

Ename Biere D’Abbey by Roman Brewery 5.5%

Brewing since 1545 – here we have a lower than your standard Abbey Beer – brewed lower ABV at 5.5% – 2 Hops – late hopping Savinsky, Golding and Salea. Noble hops and lovely grassy notes on the nose and good body. Nice and crisp beer. 

Duvel Troppel Hop 2015 – Equinox 

A new hop – from Yakima – Saaz makes the back bone – but Equinox is the star of the show as it’s the dry hop in this beer. The Equinox lifts this beer. Matched with a goat cheese – washed rind. A really good Belgian Trippel and we also got a great custom made chocolate with Yuzu filling also.

Lindemanns – Oude Kriek Cuvée René 6.5%

Lambic between 6 m and 1 yr – add cherries 32-35kg per 100l – after 6 months only the stones remain as they ferment out
Classic style labelling – one of the oldest Kriek beers.
Sour and dry perfect appetizer – delightfully tarte – very tasty beer. Superb pallet cleanser. 

Palm Brewery – Cornet Oaked – Strong Blond 8.5%

A strong Belgian Blond Ale that is Oaked – hints of Vanilla on the nose and familiar yeast smells – but when you taste it, it’s far from a typical Belgian Blond – very strong full body – alcohol there upfront and added smoothness from the oaking. The Oak was provided by oak chips and Aidan Sweeney wouldn’t tell me if they were fresh oak or casks.

Debsuisson Brewery – Bush De Charmes – Blonde 10.5%

First made last year – sweetness and flavours of yellow fruit eg Peach, Banana. The blonde ale is aged in White Wine Barrel from Burgundy in France. Aged for 4 months. Additional flavours from the barrel include a slight tartness which is from the mixed fermentation in the barrel. A complex beer which still has the flavours of a Blonde Ale. For a beer of this ABV it is very well balanced with a hint to remind you that this is a 10.5% beast.

Straffe Hendrick -Heritage 2013 – 11%
Oak Aged Barrrel Aged Quad aged and 12 month – Bordeaux Wine Barrels, then moved to thier own barrels then into Cognac Barrels. Extremely boozy aroma the tannins from the wine are very apparent. 

Duchesse De Bourgoge – Barrel Aged 6.2%

At this stage i’d no idea what i was writing – I will edit accordingly in the morning.