Friday, August 29, 2014

We share 'round these parts: the Brulosopher's bugs make it to the east coast.

If you follow the blogs Brulosophy and Brouwerij-Chugach you'll notice that the three of us have been sharing some beers with each other lately, particularly "sour" beers. Marshall, Brian and I have been working together this year as Beta testers for The Yeast Bay (thanks to Nick for introducing us!) throughout the process we have all been keeping in contact and sharing brewing (and baking) notes on both Beta testing rounds and general beer stuff a like. We all have a slightly different style when it comes to brewing, Brian and I share similar mixed fermentation obsessions while I stray into the hoppy spectrum at times his cellar is a veritable Colosseum of bugs. I will get to Brian and his Lambic in a later post.

Marshall's, aka the Brulosopher, is one of the most methodical, organized, and process driven brewers I have come across. His penchant for simplicity and optimization should both be admired and imitated by beginner and experienced brewers alike. I have adopted a few of his practices of late, specifically the Brew/Dad life balance type tips. He is doing some great things for the homebrewing community on his blog by dispelling myths and proving/disproving theories via his ExBEERiments Series. You might call him a mythbuster of sorts...

Marhsall sent me three beers, two Flanders Red's from a split batch he did with Wyeast's Roselare and WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix, I love a good split batch comparing yeast so thats right up my alley. He also sent a Funky/Sour Blonde Ale using Roselare as well, more on that one later.

Flemish Red - Roselare

Appearance: Deep mahogany reddish color, thin off white head leaving a small ring around the edges. Leaves decent lacing, but very significant legs on this one, almost like a big red wine. Steady carbonation shooting up the sides of the glass.

Aroma: Caramel malts on the nose, no acidic like or Brett aromas present. There is something that reminds me of fall, I get a really unique Squash note, by nose alone this is a Thanksgiving dinner drink.

Flavor: Nicely tart, almost surprised me actually. It's tart on the front of the tongue and on the sides of the mouth there is a pucker, right over the tongue it's smooth and silky then finishes with a maltiness to cut the acidity. 

OverallI wish that there was a bit more malt left to this beer, it would cut the acidity a little bit and make for a much more enjoyable drink. The pucker finish on the back sides of the mouth don't really make you reach for another sip quickly, not that its a chore to drink but its a sipper. In the end the beer is defined by its sourness and really nothing else. Its one of those that you have you're thinking "Damn, this is so close.", being close is a success if you ask me.

Flemish Red - WLP655
Appearance: Basically the exact same appearance as the Roselare batch. Deep maroon reddish mahogany. Thin off white head, legs similar to the Roselare on the side of glass when swirled.
AromaToasty bready malts, Carmel, dark fruits, raisin, dates. More intriguing than Roselare batch.
FlavorModerate acidic note upfront, then the malt hits the middle of the tongue, just as you think the malt is there to stay the acid takes over again in the finish with a soft subtle pucker. Some dark fruits and sweet malts mingled in there, much more in balance than the Roselare.

Overall: This was great, slightly tart that balances well with the malts. Some dark fruits, no acetic character (which I hate), no oak or hop character. I like a little oak in this style but that's just a personal preference. This one far exceeds the Roselare, and is a pretty special beer on its own.

I really enjoyed trying these two beers side by side, its always amazing how different a beer can be a variation in yeasts/bacteria pitched. I was pretty surprised that the Roselare was as sour as it was, I am not sure if it was a repitch but I had always heard that the first pitch of Roselare was a but under whelming on the sourness but would increase in subsequent pitches. I really like how WLP655 accentuated the malt and the dark fruit notes while balancing it out with the acidity, pretty great beer.

Funky/Sour Blonde - Roselare

Finally we have the Funky/Sour Blonde, which unfortunately was a miss for me. But some of the characteristics I experienced reminded me of a sour I brewed a few years ago. I emailed Marshall, and talked to Brian, to see if my notes were in line with what they had from this beer and they were not similar at all which leads us all to beleive I caught a bad bottle. I thought about not posting the notes on this beer because its obviously just a bad bottle and not what he had intended but Marshall thought it would be a good talking point, and I agree. My guess is some sort of oxidation, as the color is significantly darker than what Marhsall and Brian (link to Brians tasting notes on these beers) had experienced with this beer, paired with some cardboard and soy sauce aromas and a sweet almost under conditioned finish. 

Appearance: More amber than blonde, I wonder if there was some oxidation issue here, I've had some funky beers get dark bc of oxidation. Decent amount of tiny bubbles shooting up the glass and a small ring of head settles on the edges once it all calms down.
Aroma: Soy sauce? and malt, some cardboard, raisin, figs. I would say caramelized Figs and Raisins with soy sauce drizzled over them. Something weird going on.
FlavorSlight dryness on the tip of the tongue gives way to a sweetness that's distracting, similar flavors to the nose. It almost tastes like a beer that was only bottle conditioning for a few days.

Overall: I think something went wrong with this particular bottle. There wasn't any real sourness to speak of, it was not overly funky either, but the soy sauce and sweetness might be overpowering any of those characters. 

Ive experienced this type of discoloration in some mixed fermentation beers, and I know some other folks have as well. If anyone has some insight on what the cause could be, again I'm guessing oxidation, chime in. 


  1. Thanks so much for this, Ed, your tasting notes on the FR beers are almost completely in-line with my own thoughts. Unfortunately, your bottle of Blonde was bad, but truthfully, I'm not sure it's a truly great beer anyways. I'll send you a bottle in our next exchange, perhaps when it's a little cooler out. Regardless, honest feedback is the best feedback and if indeed oxidation is the issue, this is a good lesson. Cheers!

  2. Its interesting you thought the Sour Mix was so much better- Zainasheff shows a clear preference for the Roeselare in Brewing Classic Styles. I wonder if this is personal preference or recipe driven?
    I love that sour/funky beers seem to be gaining steam in the homebrew community; there's just so much exploration to be done. I keep wanting to brew more of them, but I'm running out of places to stash carboys for so long!
    - Dennis, Life Fermented Blog