It’s been too long and I apologize. We’ve had family in town, went on some vacation, and somewhere in there I’m still taking care of a baby. Here’s the latest – a beer review from Patrick, or as I prefer “Gatorbeer.” (Although I’m going to call him Patrick from now on)
Patrick sent me two brews, which were a “Berliner Weisse – nothing special” and a “Sour Brown with Tart Cherries”. Patrick made it very clear that he wanted my “brutally honest” review. They arrived safely a few weeks ago and I let them cellar for a week to let any sediment settle out.
For this review I enlisted my friend Greg to try both of these with me. Greg is a huge Berliner Weisse brewer/fan and has brewed more Berliner style beer than I have. We pulled both bottles out of the fridge to let them warm ever so slightly and nabbed a few clean glasses. We decided to just enjoy the beers and judge them based on whether they were good, rather than a strict BJCP chart (although we did discuss how they compared to what they were supposed to be.)
Here we go. Brutal honesty.
Since I anticipated the Sour Brown would be the most tart, we decided to start with the Berliner Weisse. It had solid carbonation and a nice head that quickly faded away, slight haze, everything appropriate to the style.
First aromatic impressions were of a tart acidity, citrus, and straw. After further discussion Greg and I were wondering if we detected a slight staleness, perhaps from a little too much oxygen – although Greg thought he detected a mixed culture.
The taste was in fact quite tart, more so than what I considered standard for a BW, but not to an unpleasant point. Lactic flavors, lemons, and a distinct citric acid flavor dominated. Very pointed acidity with appropriate wheat character. After some discussion we figure that the beer might be more sour due to a mixed culture or prolonged sour mash (with our bets on the culture) and that it was slightly higher in alcohol than what we were used to and that may have allowed it to sour more. Finally, as the beer warmed we had some bready notes come out a little stronger.
Overall impressions? Not a bad Berliner Weiss, although we both knew that this beer was a little stronger and more tart than a “standard” BW. Our recommendations (if less sour was any goal) would be to watch the mash time (or culture added.) We both finished our glasses and thought it was a good tasting beer, and that if it was a little lighter we’d definitely be looking for another bottle.
After communicating with Patrick, he said he was going for a more “in your face sour” beer and that the beer had in fact been “split one gallon onto pineapple and one gallon with salt/coriander for a gose … they placed 2nd and 3rd in the Fruit and Specialty categories, respectively in a comp in Savannah.” If more sour was the goal, then mission accomplished.
How far I’d drive for this beer: A local trip, while running errands.
What I’d pay for this beer: $4.50/22oz bottle.
The Sour Brown
This beer was described to me as being a sour brown with tart cherries. I’ve had a number of sour browns with and without fruit, so I was excited to try this beer.
Aromas were nice: old cherry pits, brettanomyces, some wood, and a bit of acid. More cherry emerged as the beer warmed. Greg percieved the “stone of the stone fruit.”
The flavor is where the bomb hit. This beer was the sourest I’ve ever had. It reminded me of when I tried some lactic acid straight. It was mouth puckering, acetic, lactic, and as some have descibed, “enamel stripping.” Once we got passed the sourness (wait, we never did) we tried to find the other components: the brown and the cherry. The brown was essentially not present [when I conversed with Patrick later, he said that “the brown was only brown in name”, due to its color.] I think this beer would have done well with some darker malts to balance out the insane sourness. There was some cherry flavor, but again the sourness dominated. I’d love to know the pH of that brew. No hop aromas/flavors (which is fine for a sour beer). As the beer warmed, some slight solvent flavors were detected.
Our thoughts turned to how we would adjust this beer: other than more caramel malts, we thought oats or maize would help smooth it out. We wondered how long and how this brew was soured, we had no idea what Patrick did to get this so tart. I think it could be used to blend with another brown ale and get a smoother tasting brew. Patrick said this was inspired by La Folie, however I’ve had had La Folie – this sour brown would have beat it up in a dark alley leaving it for dead. I’m wondering if this beer was rushed at higher temperatures or had a sour mash that went on for a long time; although the sourness made me think Pedio was used, and since I didn’t detect any diactyl, it would have had time to clean up?
Overall, this beer was simply too sour for my taste buds (and many of you know sour/wild ale is my go-to.) I’ll admit I wasn’t able to finish my entire glass it was that rough. I think backing back on the sourness, getting some specialty malts in there and perhaps a little more cherry flavor this could be a great brew.
How far I’d drive for this beer: I wouldn’t.
What I’d pay for this beer: Sorry Patrick, not one I’d reach for.
Thanks for sending the brews, Patrick!
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