Sour Beer Tasting

Twickenham’s Real Ale hosted a sour beer tasting on Wednesday night, to showcase a broad range of this increasingly popular beer style and to allow Store Manager Tim Peyton to indulge in his passion for these beers.

A beautiful range of Geuzes
A beautiful range of Geuezes

Tim kicked off the evening by presenting two styles of Gose. Originating from the 16th century from Goslar in Lower Saxony and brewed with 50% wheat, Gose’s flavours are typically lemon tartness, herb and salt – either from the water in the brew or an adjunct. As such it does not comply with the Reinheitsgebot and is classified as a regional speciality. After the second world war, production of Gose all but disappeared with the exception of a succession of tiny revivalist breweries throughout the second half of the 20th century. Since 2000, the Bayerischer-bahnhof brewery began producing Gose and other beers in the old Leipzig train station. Gose is now brewed all over the world.

First up was Stockholm brewer Omnipollo’s Bianca Mango Lassi Gose. Brewed in collaboration with Buxton Brewery this Gose is a thirst-quenching shock of citrus-sour, balanced with the addition of pureed mango, lactose and, of course salt. The aroma is very unusual with a heavy sense of spice. Interestingly, this beer began its life with an ABV of 3%. An absolute delight and a foretaste of the treasures to come. ABV 6%.

Another Buxton collaboration, this time with Denmark’s To Ol brewery, Coral Seas adds seaweed and rock salt to the mix and you can really get a taste of the sea from this full bodied, lemony-sour Gose. ABV 5.4%.

Tim’s colleague Dan then took us on a tour of Berliner Weisse. Originating in Northern Germany in the sixteenth century, this variation of the wheat beer style uses barley and wheat malt that is kilned at a very low temperature to minimise colour. Fermentation uses a mixture of yeast and lactobacillus bacteria, giving the lactic acid taste. By the late nineteenth century Berliner Weisse was the most alcoholic drink in Berlin with up to 50 breweries producing it. By the end of the twentieth century the number of breweries had reduced to just two. However, breweries across the world have now begun to brew beers based upon this style. The beer can be drunk straight, or more commonly it is laced with a sweet syrup such as raspberry or woodruff.

Berliner Weisse
Berliner Weisse

Finchampstead’s Siren brewery named their Calypso beer after the Greek Goddess who was said to have a sharp tongue. This is a bright and refreshing beer with an almost grapefruit-tartness and a hoppy background. The use of US hops Comet and Simcoe give this sour beer a more bitter aroma and finish than the Gose beers we sampled earlier. ABV 4%.

South London brewery Kernel were represented by two beers. Their London Sour Barrel Aged, a mixture of Saison and London Sour was a lot less spritzy than the Calypso but very smooth and full bodied. Bramley apple tartness and bitter-hop nose and finish. Very nice indeed. ABV 4.1%. Their London Sour Raspberry poured a deep pink with a lovely white head. Grape/Cherry aroma and a deliciously raspberry-tartness with a typically dry and mouth-watering finish leaving you keen for another. ABV 3.4%.

Dan also poured glasses of Anspach and Hobday’s take on Berliner Weisse which he had bottled earlier that day. Typically cloudy, this beer was more restrained in the use of bittering hops than the previous beers and as such made for a truly lovely smooth and sour beer.

Geuze tasting
Geueze tasting

Finally, we re-joined Tim who took everyone through a selection of four lambics from Belgium. Traditionally brewed in Pajottenland, South West of Brussels, lambic is produced by spontaneous fermentation from wild yeasts and bacteria native to the region. Different ages of lambics are blended, bottled and undergo secondary fermentation to produce Geueze.

My favourite Geueze blender, Drie Fontainen from Beersel was represented by their Oude Geueze. A delicious blend of one, two and three year old lambics that have matured in oak casks, this beer enjoys a further six months fermentation in the bottle. Seriously sour but with a complex blend of spice, herbs and oak with an almost champagne-like feel in its texture. Can be matured for ten years apparently but I would prefer to drink it fresh. ABV 6%.

Andelecht’s Cantillon brewery is a must visit for when you are in Brussels. Entrance fee is 7 euros and when I last visited this living museum they were in the middle of filling up barrels of Geueze with fresh cherries for their Kriek. Cherry-red with a beautiful raspberry tartness, this is a far cry from the syrupy fruit beers that flooded the market many years ago. Very tart, very dry, very smooth. Delicious. ABV 5%.

The High Council for the Artisanal Lambic Beer Styles (Horal) was created in 1997 by Armand Debelder of Drie Fonteinen who with five other lambic producers set out to protect and promote the brewing of traditional lambic beers. I hadn’t tasted their beers before and was treated to Oude Geueze Megablend 2015. The 2015 vintage blends young and old lambics from nine Horal members (3 Fonteinen, Boon, De Oude Cam, De Troch, Hanssens, Lindemans, Oud Beersel, Tilquin and Timmermans). Grassy and yeasty on the nose, the taste is surprisingly full-bodied for such a young beer. Dry, acidic and citrus aftertaste. I will be looking out for this! ABV 7%.

Finally, our evening ended with a sample of Lindemans Oude Geueze Cuvee Rene Special Blend from 2010. The self-styled ‘Queen of Geuezes’ has a beautiful Art Nouveau label adorning its champagne bottle. A rich aromoa of grass, herbs and musty Brettanomyces leads you to a grapefruit-citrus taste that is tempered by the ageing to include spice and estery pineapple. A long and dry but not too bitter finish. Very elegant. ABV 6%.

Thanks to Tim and Dan for a wonderful tasting evening. Looking forward to the next one!