There’s a beer that made me realise that not all beers are brown and malt led. It is perhaps the beer that set my on my beer discovery odyssey and blogging journey. It has a light lemony snap from cascade hops and shortcake biscuit malts and I had the pleasure of trying it during a J.D. Wetherspoon real ale festival. Every time I see it I’m reminded of all the beery connections I’ve made since then. It may not be the height of innovation but it has an elegant sophistication I still enjoy today. That beer is Brains S.A. Gold.
‘London Sours’, where the capital’s microbreweries use a variety of techniques to create single batches of intentionally sour beer, taste a bit one note to me; usually one overriding flavour of acetic or lactic acid on top of a thin malt base. Not much cop I thought.
Then I bought a book called ‘Wild Beers’ detailing the wonderful world of Belgium’s surviving spontaneous and mixed fermentation breweries. The chapter on Flemish Rodenbach brewery had me hooked – hundreds of tall oak fermentation vessels where the beer slowly ferments over the course of two years. Images of master brewers sampling each oaken vat before selecting which could be used with which to produce just the right match for the Grand Cru were utterly captivating. Not just some inexpert ‘lets give this a go and see what happens tinkering’ but real knowledge, innovation and history at work.
Luckily there was a beer shop in Edinburgh where Rodenbach Grand Cru could be found – and the taste was astonishing. Served chilled it was fruity, almost pick n’ mix cola-bottle sourness with a tangy, vinous finish. This was a beer well beyond the flavour confines of a brew made with just a single strain of brewers yeast. The world suddenly opened up.
My husband is an incredibly supportive and tolerant man and there’s no better beer to celebrate this than Brooklyn Brewery Sorachi Ace. If you’ve not yet had the pleasure, it’s a contemporary take on a Belgian saison created by brewing and beer writing legend Garrett Oliver. It’s memorable for many reasons. Its snappy dryness, the very herbal character of the hops, the lemony notes brought up by pairing it with a nice piece of salmon served with a creamy dill sauce – and very personally because I first tasted it in Brooklyn on my honeymoon, when I took a day out of our trip to interview Garrett. My husband never complained once and, even better, he was as blown away by Sorachi Ace as I was.