De Struise: Ypres (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)
Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large fizzy bubbled brown head.
Nose: Port soaked raisins. Black cherry. Red wine. Vanilla. Madeira. Golden syrup and treacle. Liquorice. Sour dough.
Body: Black cherry. Blackcurrant jam. Tart berries. Acidic apple. Liquorice. Smooth. Bready – brown bread. Madeira and toffee.
Finish: Blueberry. Apples. Malt chocolate and vanilla toffee. Blackpool rock. Liquorice.
Conclusion: This is a lot smoother than I expected, guess I have become used to the tarter end of the Flemish Brown and red ales. So to find something smooth and sweet like this did give me a kick to the preconceptions.
The golden syrup like sweetness to the nose made me think of barley wines, but it was mixed in with vinous and berry notes that promised something more than that. I wasn’t sure which way the beer was going to go but I was very interested to find out.
Dropping down into the main body I found the expected sourness never really comes – instead, smoothed by oak, you find a vanilla sweetness. There are tart berries, but they are mixed with jammy sweetness so never seem too intense. They give an extra tingle to the beer but no more than that – it is instead fruity and slightly vinous. There is a sweet toffee base below, but the main work for the beer is done with the huge amounts of jammy dark fruit. It keeps just enough tartness and charred oak feel to make sure you know it is a Flemish brown, all the rest of the effort is put into the flourishes.
It is very soothing and makes fully use of the berry flavours without losing the base beer. In fact, as the beer warms the base makes itself felt more and showing more of the Flemish character – it helps accentuate the sweetness by giving contrast. Easier to drink cool, and more soothing, but warmer feels more complex.
Maybe a tad easy going to be a true classic of the style, it mutes its potential just slightly – but a very nice beer to chill out with and appreciate.
Background: This is the 2010 Double Barrel Aged FOB (Flemish Old Brown) as the bottled says. De Struise are one of the growing unusual side of Belgian brewing, and they tend to turn out tasty beers. Looking online the double barrel ageing is apparently Bourgogne and Wild Turkey barrels, or at least 2009 was, I can’t find exact details for 2010. Drunk while listening to Shadows Fall: Fallout From The War. It was only when I came to write these notes up I realised that was an odd pick considering the beer is named after a city that was the centre of a sustained battle during world war 1. A complete coincidence I assure you. Picked up from Independent Spirit – the convenience of grabbing stuff from them is dangerous to my bank balance.