Beer Review: Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueuze
Drink if you like: Sour punches to the mouth, complex earth and barnyard flavors
Some folks may assume “sour” and “beer” do not belong together, but we hope to convince you that sour beer is the next big thing. We’re looking at you, IPA – watch your back. While we believe there is no official path to beer enlightenment – drink whatever the hell you want – there does seem to be somewhat common flavor thresholds in a beer geek’s palette evolution. We see it frequently: a person is friendly and curious about craft beer so they try wheat beers and brown ales. Soon they make a glorious transition from the flavorless yellow fizzy stuff. Sure enough, they try – and this time enjoy – stouts and porters. Or they finally find an IPA they like and before you know it they can’t get a beer that’s bitter enough. Then they evolve to crave gigantic and complex beers that are barrel-aged or involve strange ingredients or… sour beer.
Sour beers are brewed to be intentionally acidic, tart and sour. While many brewers practice the art of cleanliness, many sour brewers encourage wild yeast to “infect” their beer. Many intentionally introduce lactobacillus and pediococcus bacteria into the beers; these guys are commonly used to turn milk into cheese and yogurt and cabbage into sauerkraut. Another star critter in sour beers is the wild yeast (yes it floats around!) brettanomyces. These microscopic heroes are responsible for the magic in sour beer.
We’ve introduced many folks to sour beers – the rule of thumb is try it, get over that punch in the face of sour, then try it again. The second or third sip won’t be as shocking as the first, honest! And you’ll soon start finding layers upon layers of complex and enjoyable flavors. These flavors are an alien world away from what a normal person considers to taste like beer. And ya know what? It’s freakin’ awesome.
We are reviewing today one of the best, if not the best, sour beers available in Arkansas. This beer is blended by what is claimed to be the last remaining independent master gueuze blender in Belgium – Hanssens Artisanaal. What is gueuze exactly? Gueuze is blended young and old lambic beers. It’s important to note that this style has been around for hundreds of years – and independent non-brewing blenders were commonplace in Belgium. Brewers would brew and age lambic beer and then take various barrels to a blender whom would work some magic and make an amazing beer. Today, the fourth generation Sidy Hanssens, her husband John and father Jean, still blend lambic beers (some of which are aged up to 100 years) and blend them to create gueuze. They still use the same methods and much of the same materials from 100 years ago!
Let’s now take a tour of history and drink a beer that was made with ancient equipment, methods, and has a blend of beer that may have been from 1913, 1933, 1945, 1961, 1977, 1993 and 2009!
Oude Gueuze pours a bright golden yellow with plenty of carbonation and a three finger white cap. You’ll smell this sour-bomb as soon as you pop the cork. Lean in and explore the giant barnyard of funk via the hero brettanomyces as well as various lemon notes, green apple, muscadine, pear and other acid-forward fruits. Now time to take that first sour punch – get ready. You’ll be hit hard with flavors of sour lemon, peaches, green apples and oak; which give this beer a very sharp crispness. The wonderful funk, including horse blanket, musty hay and other pungent earthy notes shine more as it warms – which literally makes this beer better with every sip.
We don’t give 5-diamonds out very often, but we are extremely proud to give this beer 5 of those shiny natural state gems. Do yourself a favor and hop on the sour train. Everyone else is starting to load up – New Belgium is investing heavily in foeders!
If you find this beer anywhere, you better grab it and run!
We gave this beer 5 Diamonds: