Fruit can be a crutch for brewers producing sour beers. When I drink Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen, I’d rather have the gueuze than the kriek. As good as the Cantillon Zwanze releases and the weird Drie Fonteinens (like Malvasia Rosso) are, I’d rather drink their best straight gueuze any day. The flavors of their base beers are so intricate and compelling, that I’d rather enjoy them unadorned. My sour beers on the other hand are solid, but without the volume to blend frequently, they have yet to meet that lofty standard. Fruit has the ability to elevate what is an enjoyable result, into one possessing flavors that few people have tasted before in a beer.
This dubbel started life almost two years ago. Brewed with pale and dark crystal from Valley Malting, two types of dark candi syrup, and fermented with WLP545 (Belgian Strong Ale). Half was served clean on tap soon thereafter. The remainder was soured with the dregs from several bottles of sour beers, including De Dolle Oerbier Reserva and Russian River Consecration (two of my favorite dark sours). It was aged on two varieties of plums. A true dubbel!
Appearance – At first glance the color is a somewhat uninspiring maroon, but held to the light the body glows ruby-red, gem clear. The beige head has solid retention, with pretty lacing trailing behind as it recedes.
Smell – Juicy plums, mixed with damp basement funk. Honey, allspice, plum brandy, and a faint tinge of soapiness. More balanced fruit character than the Nectarine sour that I always associate it with, despite similar ratios of fruit to beer. Some fruits are simply more aromatic than others.
Taste – The sourness is balanced, lactic, very side of the tongue. It is hard to determine exactly where the actual fruit stops and the dark crystal malt and candi syrup take over. It starts fresh plum, gradually sweetening and transforming into prunes and raisins. The finish lingers with toasted oak and malt.
Mouthfeel – Medium body, slightly sticky, a nice match for the darker flavors. Carbonation is medium-low, enough to lift up the aromatics, but not disrupt the mood. Luckily the tannins this beer exhibited young have all but faded entirely.
Drinkability & Notes – One of the more unique sour beers I’ve brewed in terms of what is in the glass. The flavors interweave nicely, with the microbes, malt, and fruit all sharing the spotlight. It is in the same family with my favorite commercial dark sours, not too acidic, rich funkiness, but not quite on their level of depth (yet). This one should have good aging potential, and I’m excited to see how it fares in the years to come!