Today I’ll do something different and pull out a beer from Norway, “Haandbakk” from the Haand brewery. This one’s in the style of a Flanders Oud Bruin, which is kind of an obscure style. It’s not going to be too easy to find examples of this in South Florida, but if you can find a Liefmans Goudenband sitting around, you’ll be on to a good one.
Oud Bruins are brown ales associated with the Flanders region of Belgium, often soured due to aging in wooden barrels where varying levels of bacteria and wild yeast naturally live. This gives the beer some wine-like acidity, and often some cheesy funk too. Overall? Fruity, tart, funky, refreshing. I think they are great Florida beers, but unfortunately, they are somewhat rare.
Haandbakk underwent its aging process in barrels that previously held red wine, so I’m definitely expecting some vinous aromas and flavors, as well as a good deal of sour. My bottle appears to have been bottled on May 10, 2010 – no worries there, a little age usually won’t hurt these at all.
Since it’s aged in red wine barrels, I’m going to pour it into a huge Cabernet glass. Pretty deep amber color with only modest foam, though I can rouse it with a swirl or two. Really excellent nose, I notice red licorice and an overall “sour candy” aroma first, but there’s some layering to this. Cotton candy, even a hint of black licorice along with tart grape, cherry, currant and plum. Balsamic vinegar and the odd whiff of acetone, normal for this style. I don’t like that acetone aroma, but here it is kept to a minimum. I’ve had some beers that are just seemingly suffused with nail polish remover aroma, and I rarely like those. There’s more than a bit of funk here too – as it warms especially, I’m smelling some blue cheese and maybe a touch of dog poop. It’s quite a nice aroma….reminiscent of Russian River’s “Consecration,” but I’m actually thinking this is better, and by some distance, though I can’t believe I’m saying that.
I think I’m in love with this beer. No part of it is harsh at all, but it’s packed with so much flavor! The red wine barrels are evident, but not as much as I was thinking they’d be. It’s not quite so woodsy, nor is there an overbearing acidity. I was expecting gut-wrenching “sour,” and I would have been OK with that, but what I’m getting instead is just “very tart.” That’s fine too, because it works with tremendous elegance in the context of this beer. It’s cherry, raisin, plum and balsamic vinegar, all in balance. A light blue-cheesy funk is present, especially on the back end and finish. Little to no acetone.
Great complex beer that also succeeds in being easy to drink. If you want to analyze it? Lots there to think about….but if you just want to drink without all the think, that will work too. Its tart, slightly off-dry finish makes it refreshing – a very impressive feat for an 8% ABV beer. Never would have guessed that one, I was thinking more like 5-6%.
Beers like this do a good job of subbing in for red wine at a steak dinner. Then again, loads of beers are good with meat, but that’s another blog.
Want to try an Oud Bruin? Seek out Liefmans Goudenband, I know it’s available locally, even if it might be a bit of a hunt.