Right now, sour beers are without a doubt one of the hottest styles going in American craft brewing.
Of course, Belgium is home to the world’s greatest sour beer traditions — with classic red, brown and lambic styles produced around the country, and an amazing number of small breweries experimenting with all sorts of ingredients, while using time-honored aging and blending techniques.
Global Beer Network, which imports more than 60 Belgian beers to the U.S., recently launched a new version of its Sour Power series. It’s a variety six-pack that trades on the current sour fascination with beers that can be mixed and matched to create multiple flavor combinations.
Produced by De Brabandere Brewery in Flanders, the ales are brewed and aged under the Petrus label, and include:
Petrus Aged Pale — 100 percent “mother beer” aged in oak foeders that are used to add sour flavor to other blends.
Petrus Oud Bruin — A blend of 33 percent Aged Pale and 67 percent young brown beer, typical of Flemish red-brown ale.
Petrus Aged Red — A blend of 85 percent Dubbel Bruin and 15 percent Aged Pale with fresh cherries added.
Petrus 50/50 — The “Brewmaster’s Favorite Blend” created with 50 percent Aged Pale and 50 percent Aged Red.
Each six-pack contains three Aged Pale bottles, and one each of Oud Bruin, Aged Red and 50/50. There’s also a handy guidebook, with intros on the art of blending and aging, that doubles as a clever promotional tool for the Petrus brand.
The real fun begins when you follow the suggestions in the back of the book to “start tasting, blending and tasting again” in the manner of a Belgian brewmaster.
The Aged Pale, a favorite of the late, great British beer writer Michael Jackson, is sourest of the bunch. With a sparkling effervescence and a snappy bite, it serves as a base for blending more sour power into the other beers.
The Aged Red is delightfully sweet and sour, with a fruity cherry essence that makes it easy to drink, even for sour novices. Try adjusting the sour level with the Aged Pale up to the 50/50 blend or beyond, according to your palate.
The reddish-brown Oud Bruin is slightly more sour than the Aged Red, but also a bit more malty. Adjusting the sour level with the Aged Pale yields noticeably different, more rounded results within that flavor profile.
Blending all three of the sour ales together in different combinations adds layers of complexity or confusion, depending on your point of view.
At the end of my own little Sour Power tasting experiment, I think I agreed with the brewmaster. The 50/50 was my favorite, too. But the subject will certainly require much more research.
The Sour Power pack has a suggested retail price of $22.99, which should be discounted somewhat at most beverage stores. While that may seem a bit costly, individual bottles of Petrus regularly retail for $4.99 and up. And as a bonus, Petrus 50/50 is only available as a limited edition in this mix pack.
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