The Session #54: Sour Beer

I’d been meaning to work out how the session works for a while, so when I got an idea for a session topic I Googled it and found the necessary details (see here). It’s a monthly beer blogging event held on the first Friday of the month blogging about a topic “hosted” by one of the participants. I decided it’s high time I got involved and this month’s entry is as good as any, “sour beer”. This month it's hosted by John at the Brew Site.

Lee from Hoptopia recently tweeted “What was your first sour beer” and I replied Boon Oude Gueuze at the Boon Brewery November 2009. Though, on reflection, this wasn’t strictly true now I come to think about it. No, for my first experience of sour beer would have been a few years earlier than that in the form of a kriek or framboise from the excellent Southampton bottle shop Bitter Virtue. I tried a few different fruit lambic beers but nothing that made me want to go back for a second one and I ended up largely sticking to British bottled beers.

The beer festival is in the spectacular Belfort Van Bruge
I decided I needed more of an education in the Belgian beer styles and my chance arose in November 2009 when a group of us visited Bruges for the beer festival. It was an eye-opening event to say the least. So many different beers that I didn’t know where to start. In my excitement I forgot to keep notes, so other than a few ticks in the program I’m not sure what I tried and what I thought of them.

What have we here?
One of the highlights of the trip; however was a visit the Boon brewery. We boarded a coach to the small town of Lembeek and scurried out through the rain into a courtyard where we were met by our tour guide. We could see what was definitely an industrial site, but it could have been making anything. There was however a clue to its contents in the shape of the letterbox outside. We were met by the jovial guide who led us through the gates and onwards into the brewery.
A clue to what lay within

 Once inside we were given an interesting and intriguing tour of the brewery including of the mash tun, the fermenting tanks and the barnlike maturing room filled with massive Brandy barrels filled with beers of varying ages. Much better accounts are available elsewhere and this post isn’t about the brewery but the beer.

 The gigantic aging barrels at Boon Brewery

After the tour we all sauntered up the road to a beer cafe where we could choose between Boon Oude Gueuze and Boon Kriek. I picked the former and this was certainly the biggest eye opener of the whole trip. I’d been told what to expect beforehand, that the beer would be sour, that it “isn’t for everyone”, but this still gave me no idea of what was in store for me!  A tongue tingling lemon with sour and still more sour and a whole mix of other new and exciting flavours besides. I loved it. I also tried the kriek which I much preferred to the sweetened versions I'd tried so far.

Shortly afterwards I moved to Northern Ireland and had no chance to further my sour beer experience. Through talking on rate beer I found someone locally who is a sourhead and he recommended The Vineyard in Belfast as the place to try and I picked up some Mort Subite beers from there. He has a sour beer project of his own which I may get a chance to blog about later in the year. My realisation is that I’ve merely scratched the surface with lambic beers and other sour styles and need to rectify that urgently!

I am making this post go live whilst working at the Great British Beer Festival and yes, I’ve had a chance to try some other sour beers here too. We have some crazy beers by revelation cat on draught. Three year old Boon lambic taken from Belgium and aged in laphroaig whisky/ marsala wine casks. There's also a superb Fruity kriek

I’m hopefully going to visit the Cantillon brewery when in Belgium next year too so plenty more sour beer ahead of me.

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