Color me Converted: Norwegian Sour Ale

So, I have to say that, in my rather limited experience with sour ales, I’ve found the results to be especially satisfying. These beers are a very specific kind of brew that generally follows a set formula:

-fermented with an organism other than traditional yeast

-a blend of older, oak-aged beer with a younger specimen to combine aged sourness with young sweetness

-red or brown coloring from specialty malts

-strong fruity and floral aromas and flavors that overwhelm the beer’s natural hoppiness

Now, by and large, sour ales are considered a Belgian specialty. I for one had always invested in Belgian sours and Flemish reds. I have one more with intent to review in the fridge right now, actually.

The real story, though, is, on a whim, while I was placing an order at Bruisin Ales, I swapped out a duplicate Flemish red for a Norwegian sour as recommended by their proprietor. How was it? I’m not even going to tease. I loved it, and here’s a massive shot of it so you can see what I got. Haandbakk by Haand Bryggeriet. An Oud Bruin (Flanders brown) ale. Delicious vitals after the jump.

The Results:

The appearance of the beer is very appealing. It has a deep reddish brown color but a pure translucency. There’s very little cloudiness, which lends it a bright red luminosity in the light. The head retention is decent, but it’s not enough to let the beer truly develop in the glass. Once it’s there, the aromas will begin escaping, so you better enjoy it quickly.

The nose of the beer is almost purely sour fruit, with green apple and sour cherry. There’s almost no beer smell to it. The unusual preparation lends it an almost dusty, earthy aroma.

The mouth feel of the beer matches the flavor profile very well. It’s actively acidic and carbonated, accenting the sourness while adding structure to the perceived sweetness.

The flavor of the beer is very brisk and very sour. It has hints of herbs and grass, though it’s largely a fruit affair. Apple, cherry candy, almost like a Jolly Rancher. The hops come through on the finish with a hint of dark chocolate. The alcohol, at 8%, is nonexistent on the flavor.

For the Casual Drinker:

This doesn’t even remotely approach the typical flavor of a beer. The response I got from someone not expecting a sour ale said quite plainly that it smelled rotten. The fruits are pungent and, quite frankly, a trifle dusty, overwhelming a surprised palate. You have to go into this expecting anything but a typical beer.

The Conclusion:

Want a unique experience? This certainly qualifies. It’s a bit expensive at $11 for just over a pint, making it on par with those $40 to $50 bottles of juice you always bypass at the wine shop. Special occasion beer? Absolutely, but I recommend getting a bottle to try before you stock the fridge for New Years. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Haandbakk

Producer: Haand Bryggeriet

Region: Norway

Vintage: 2008

Alcohol: 8%

Price: $11 / 16.9 oz

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4 Responses to “Color me Converted: Norwegian Sour Ale”

  1. Brian Says:

    Oh man,
    Sour beer. It’s one of those oddities that my friends love and I usually only taste after I’m four IPAs in. I have yet to purchase one of these for myself. It is such a divergence from the normal brews I consume it’s hard for me to go sour…

    I’ll give you this, they have an interesting and somewhat refreshing quality, like a tart lemonade (not that they taste like lemons), but damn… I just have a tough time with them!

    Good drinking mate!

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Nope, you hit it on the head. It’s like a tart lemonade without the lemons. Completely unexpected… the oak aging and blending gives it a quality and texture unique compared to single-vintage oak-aged beers, and the non-traditional fermentation gives it a new wealth of flavors. I’m only more and more impressed with what breweries can achieve in this style.

      Thanks for the comment, Brian!

  2. Wine Harlots Says:

    Great post, it’s made me want to dash out and pick up a bottle to try for myself. Keep up the great work. Cheers!

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Hey, I appreciate it. I’m glad I can get the wine people to indulge in my beer excursions… beer really can be savored like wine, and I would put promoting beer second on my list after promoting local wine.

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