Since this is the first “live” review I’ve done on other people’s homebrew, I’m going to give you a slight intro on what goes through my mind:
I love trying other people’s beer. It allows a glimpse into another brewers world and methods. I’m really excited to try out Brulosopher’s beers he sent me this past week. He and I go way back (ha) to several months ago when we were selected to beta test for The Yeast Bay. Since starting the Yeast Bay testing, I joined reddit and started reading his blog as well as Ales of the Riverwards (the other beta tester, Ed.) I mention this because it’s even more fun to try beer from people you read about or quasi- work with (even if it is on separate coasts.) That being said, I did try to take an objective view on these beers. I always remind myself that the point is to provide insightful feedback rather than patting each other on the back all the time. Lets face it, we aren’t all producing the Plinys or Rose de Gambrinus’.
It’s hard to judge other people’s beer. Personally, I do as much of an impartial stance and pretend I’m judging a beer I bought off the shelf. I know it takes time to make these brews – especially one that ages as long as these styles do. Nevertheless, I think it is important to be critical and brutally honest, its the only way we push the hobby further.
My grading scale tries to describe the brew, and then give you a rating based on something we can all understand. I rate based upon How far I’d drive for this beer & What I’d pay for this beer. Rather than a bunch of stupid numbers that try to quantify feelings, tastes, and urges to get more, I try to put a personal value on the beer. How much of my time/energy it’s worth and what I’d shell out for it. There isn’t a specific scale, but you’ll get the idea.
Here we go!
Flanders Red w/ Roselare
In a nutshell, I found this beer to be a one dimensional sour explosion [I don’t sugar coat things.] It was interesting to try another homebrewers take on the Flanders Red style. This particular beer was very tart and I really had a hard time getting past how tart it really was. The complexity and fruit/esters you would expect to find in this style weren’t present. My pointers would be a more complex malt bill. If that wasn’t the case, then I’d check sparge temps, fermentation temps and/or methods. Hard to tell since I wasn’t aware of the exact methodology. Higher temps tend to result in more bacteria being present.
After speaking with Marshall, he said he tossed in some dregs from the Bruery around 6-8 months. I’m guessing these dregs dominated whatever else was going on and produced the insane citric taste this beer provides. Roselare is a foul mistress and doesn’t sour as fast as some other strains, if at all. Think Rodenbach – it’s got some acidity, but for the most part is quite balanced with its malt character.
Aroma – acidity, some vanilla, very light plum, very light toasty maltiness
Flavor – A slight plum flavor, but not much other fruit. A good deal of acidity going on in this beer, slightly harsh if I was going to say anything critical about it. Acidity seems citric or lactic in nature, somewhat one dimensional. Similar to the acidity of a lemon. Not a lemon flavor, but the acid level reminds me of sipping lemon juice. Not much malt/fruit flavor going on. No hop flavors. In the last sip I thought I perceived a hint of diacetyl.
Mouthfeel – Definitely sour with a dry finish. Good carbonation. Medium to low body. Somewhat astringent.
Overall Impressions – Somewhat of a one dimensional Flanders red. Too much acidity for easy drinking. I can tell it’s a good attempt at the style, but I would be curious as to what the malt bill was, there should be much more fruitiness and complexity to the final product. Would blend well with a less sour Flanders.
How far I’d drive for this beer: Local Beer Store, while running another errand.
What I’d pay for this beer: I’d drink it if I found it in someone’s cooler at a party.
Flanders Red w/WL655
A well balanced beer overall. Much better than the other half with balanced acidy with some malt sweetness. Fruitiness is moderately present and pleasant on the palate. Not much to troubleshoot on this one, I’d just change the malt bill to increase those classic flavors. I personally enjoy a more velvety smooth/richness (found in Rodenbach Grand Cru) and I think with more caramel & wheat malts this could be achieved. Just personal preference. I also think it could easily bump another percent ABV and have a little more punch.
Aroma – Very slight fruit flavors -Tart cherry, plum, figs. Moderate acidity. No hop aroma.
Flavor – moderate sourness. light fruit notes, again – cherry, plum, fig. well balanced between the malt and hops. no hop flavors.
Mouthfeel – warm carbonation. moderately dry finish. medium body. low astringency.
Overall Impressions – Much, much smoother than the Roselare blend.
How far I’d drive for this beer: A ‘special trip’ Local Beer Store (but wouldn’t wait in line for it.)
What I’d pay for this beer: $10/6pack
The Sour Blonde
This beer was fun to try – I really didn’t know what to expect as the interpretation of a sour blond is totally up the brewer and varies wildly (wildly…haha…) This beer did not dissapoint.
It wasn’t as sour as I originally anticipated (since the previous bottle marked “roselare” was a sour patch kid on crack), but really had a nice balance of malt, funk, and acidity. It was easy drinking with minimal hop flavors and a smooth malt bill. The part I enjoyed the most was that as the beer warmed there were some neat belgian estery flavors – caramel, clove and even a hint of banana. I chose to wait even longer and sipped this slowly over the next 45 minutes. Well done.
Aroma -plums, caramelized apricots, slight fig. As it warms some nice belgian style esters – slight banana, clove,
Flavor – light sourness, medium funk.
Mouthfeel – warm carbonation. smooth creamy feel.
Overall Impressions – A fun beer. I started out cool around 42F and it was a neutral sour beer. As it warmed it started to remind me of a belgian ale, with warm esters on the nose and tongue. really a cool brew.
How far I’d drive for this beer: A ‘special trip’ to the Local Beer Store. I’d even make a second trip and try again if they were out of it.
What I’d pay for this beer: $12/6pack
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