This month we are releasing three versions of our strong burgundy beer, Counter Cultural Colorations. This strong ale is our most red wine-like beer yet, and I’m extremely happy with how it turned out. Some people may remember that most of the blend used to make our 1st Anniversary Ale was our strong burgundy. Like that beer, these three beers are saturated with notes of dark fruit and sour berries, with multiple layers of flavor and oak complexity.
I lived in Belgium from 2001 until 2003, and while in Belgium I had a taste for beer. Chimay Blue and Duvel were my beers of choice, but I also enjoyed every Trappist beer, many of the Abbey beers, and Moinette Blonde and Brune from Brasserie Dupont. Yup, my high school palate enjoyed almost every type of Belgian beer, except for some brown ales. I didn’t have many Belgian brown ales, but a couple that I had were sour, and I didn’t really care for them. Fast forward 8 years, and I am lucky try Rodenbach Grand Cru for the first time while living in Berlin. At this point I had made some Brett beers and some sour beers on the homebrew and professional level, but this was the first great sour/wild beer I remember. While I was on spring break during brewing school I was fortunate to visit Rodenbach, and the tour was more epic than I could have imagined. Being a professional brewer has its perks, and getting the special tour while visiting an iconoclastic brewery with such a storied history was truly memorable.
One of the bottles I brought back to Germany with me is called Vin de Céréale. It was described as a strong Flemish red ale that was 100% oak aged and very wine-like (most of Rodenbach’s beer is oak aged beer blended with fresh beer to achieve the ideal balance of acidity and sweetness). As much as I was looking forward to this beer, and as much as I wanted to like it, I felt that it was too intense. It was bottled in 2004 and I was enjoying (or trying to) in 2011. I felt that this beer just had too much acetic acid (vinegar) harshness that was intensified by the high alcohol content, and the complexity of the beer was hidden behind intense balsamic notes. I liked the concept of this beer so much, but through this experience learned that I am more sensitive to acetic acid than most drinkers. While acetic acid sharpness is characteristic of Flemish ales, I prefer those that have softer acidity.
Our version of a Strong Burgundy is made to be full bodied, (for a wild ale) with Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner malt and Vienna malt providing a base to layer caramel and crystal malts from Belgium and England, alongside a touch of Belgian dark candi sugar. Fermentation for a beer of this alcohol content is long and slow, and this beer was barrel aged for a year before bottling. Our mixed culture delivers esters of stone fruit and berries intertwined with red wine notes and firm tannins from aging in Italian Sangiovese puncheons. Deep mahogany in color with refreshing acidity and impressive drinkability that belies the deceptively high alcohol content.
Red Currants are not common in the US, but are commonly grown in Northern European countries. Beers with red currants are rarely made in the US, presumably because the berries are hard to find, and many consumers are therefore unfamiliar with the fruit. For those unfamiliar with the flavor of red currants, they remind me of a cross between a raspberry and cranberry, but with a lot of tannins. Choosing a brightly acidic berry loaded with tannins reinforces the red wine-like notes already present in this strong ale, and adds an additional layer of fruity complexity.
At Odd Breed we are constantly looking for unique barrels. We work with several barrel brokers, and we have informed a couple barrel brokers of items on our ‘must have’ list. Every once in a while, something unique becomes available and we find a purpose for barrels that we didn’t know we wanted or needed. Several months ago, I received a phone call from a local barrel broker with high end Jamaican Rum Barrels that were emptied only a couple weeks before. He had heard of Odd Breed, and figured maybe we would be interested in his barrels. After inspecting the barrels and finding that they were in great condition (which is uncommon for Caribbean rum barrels) I decided to buy a few for our Soma Stout and our Burgundy.
When I got the barrels back to the brewery I was happy to find a couple liters of barrel proof rum inside the barrels. Some of our customers in the tasting room got free samples of this rum, and most people thought the rum was pretty damn good. Unfortunately, I do not know the origin of these rum barrels because the distillery painted over the barrel markings (which is a common practice). Even if I was able to determine the distillery, I signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevents me from sharing info about the origin of the barrels.
All of our beers age well because they are bottled with living Brettanomyces wild yeast, but these three beers should age especially well. The elevated level of alcohol and tannins soften the aging process, and beers like these can be aged longer than most of our beers. How long can you age these beers? I’m not sure. But definitely at least 5 years. I wouldn’t be surprised though if these beers hold up well beyond a decade.
By Matt Manthe
February 21, 2019