Until recently, Belgian-inspired sour ales have never appeared with regularity in any of my home's four (beer-dedicated) refrigerators. But with the recent release of New Glarus Enigma, I've become reacquainted with assertively fruity brews, so much so that they're at the top of my current seasonal favorites. Their tartness and sharp acidity is well suited to sunny and crisp springtime days. Among my most recent local finds is a new beer from the Great Dane at Hilldale with the traditional name of Oud Bruin, which is made in the spirit of an old brown ale from Belgium.
What is it? Oud Bruin from the Hilldale location of the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co.
Style: Oud Bruin is a Belgian beer style sometimes referred to as a Flanders Brown Ale. The style originates in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, and its name translates as "old brown." The Oud Bruin is a light- to medium-bodied beer with deep copper to brownish-bronze color. Its flavor offers some acidic sourness, but it's held in check by malty sweetness and roasted character. You should expect little or no hoppiness. The Oud Bruin has a similar yet more distinctive cousin, the Flanders Red Ale, with more sour and tart overtones. The Oud Bruin will range in alcohol from 4% to 8% ABV.
Background: Oud Bruin at the Great Dane Hilldale just went on tap last weekend and is expected to remain on tap through much of June. Brewer Don Vasa makes this beer with Belgian Saison yeast, which adds distinctive crisp and tart qualities. However, at the core of the Oud Bruin are seven different types of malts, most prominent being crystal and caramel. The beer ferments for about a month. Vasa says all that malt and aging time creates a beer with deceptive strength, and it deserves some respect from its 7.5% ABV. That strength becomes more evident as the beer's warmth grows on the palate as you enjoy a pint.
This beer has the maltiness of an old brown ale, yet when it's drawn from the tap at its coldest, it has a distinctive acidic sourness that is more commonly associated with the Flanders Red Ale version. Therefore, the full name that appears on the Great Dane Beer Board is a bit of a compromise -- Oud Bruin Red Ale.
Oud Bruin at the Great Dane Hilldale sells for $5/pint and $10/growler (refill).
- Aroma: A light fruity, sour nose.
- Appearance: Clear, reddish amber color, with a bubbly tan head.
- Texture: Medium- to full-bodied, bubbly and round.
- Taste: A malty caramel start with an assertive fruity and sour, background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Softness of the texture really comes through as the beer warms. A maltiness also comes back to balance out the sour tones.
Glassware: Oud Bruin is served in a British pint glass at the Dane. With its fruity nose and amber color, the snifter glass is perhaps more ideally suited for focusing the aromas and in encouraging a light sipping, which will create appreciation for how the beer changes as it warms.
Pairs well with: The sour and tart qualities of the Oud Bruin will complement vinegary dishes, and especially salads. It also makes a nice companion for sweeter seafoods like crab and shellfish. Its acidic qualities will make this an interesting beer for cooking -- try simmering some scallops in this brew.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Verdict: Oud Bruin has firm malty underpinnings that become more evident as it warms. Allowing its temperature to rise slowly softens the harsh tart qualities, and brings out more of the maltiness and fuller mouthfeel. However, if you like that sour edginess, then drink it while it's at its coldest. The acidic sharpness has some thirst-quenching qualities, but its strength merits respect. Oud Bruin is a great sipping beer, one that should be savored on Great Dane's patio while watching the spring sunset.