Tag Archives: Slowbeer

cultivating love for the sour ale

Bellies fortified suitably with something approximating ramen, Tristan and I skipped across the road to Slowbeer for the second session that week of a lambic tasting, focussing on those of Belgian brewery Cantillon.

What I loved most about this tasting is that they’re not for everyone, we’re moving into intermediate craft beer territory, folks! It was also a fantastic way to get to sample ten of Cantillon’s sour brews.

The first time I tried sour beer, it was very much baptism by fire. I guess I’m teething now, palate-development wise? It actually makes me cringe to read back on that previous post and see the words “This is a beer I would never have again, if I could avoid it” because I did get to have it again my reaction was nowhere near that negative.

The beer we started with was the Iris. It’s one of the few Cantillon make that has fresh hops (old dry hops are used in these beers for their preservative function, rather than for flavouring). Also notable is it has no wheat. It was very carbonated, extremely sour and dry and had the aroma of compost. That might sound unsavoury but its actual taste was zesty, vinous and quite like cider but without any of cider’s sweetness. The colour has a hint of copper but is mainly amber. I’d drink it again, should be great for summer and @brenosbrews I believe suggested that it was a great match with mussels and cheese, just like the Belgians do.

Erm, pay no attention to the label on the next bottle – I can assure you that we were drinking a distinctly unrelated…amber liquid! The second subject was indeed the one I vowed I’d never have again – Cantillon’s Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio. It’s a damn good thing that one’s palate changes! It’s very clear, less carbonated in comparison to the first lambic sampled and its sourness mellows as you have more. It has a touch of bitterness and a crisp crystal mouthfeel. I think Chris did well to start us off with a lambic that was essentially a shock to the tastebuds as it made many of us more receptive to the lambics that followed.

The Lou Pepe Gueuze is a subtler beast still. Quite a full body, little to no carbonation and a very delicate sourness and acidity about it. Overall, surprisingly subtle. Cantillon use fruit as the sugar to bottle condition with a whopping 300g fruit to every litre of liquid! Despite this, one of my tasting notes indicates that I found it an ‘odd sort of savoury’.

The Grand Cru Bruocsella had a very similar little-to-no carbonation profile. The actual lambic was slightly cloudy, soft and smooth with a hint of astringency. It was a bit like drinking sour water with a ‘farmy’ taste. I admit that doesn’t make it sound appetising but it was surprisingly easy to drink! It’s also aged in oak barrels and is not bottle conditioned with any sort of sugar.

We’re at the halfway point with our Cantillon lambic experience and moving towards the fruitier examples within the lambic spectrum. The first beer to start that off was the Rose de Gambrinus. It had the faintest tinge of pink and red and smelt of white wine with raspberries and roses! It was very carbonated with tight bubbles and sour in a fruity way. We’ve moved away from the ‘farmyard’ profile of the previous lambics.

Interestingly, at this point Chris told informed us that fruit flavouring beer predates hops and that the American market can’t handle the artistically naked lady on the bottle, so it has to be exported there with a clothed one!

The Lou Pepe Framboise was bright red out of the bottle and had more fruit in the taste. It was also less carbonated than the beer above and has a touch of acidity. It was like drinking sour red berries with the occasional bittersweetness. Really, really lovely!

Cantillon Lou Pepe framboise 2007

Things continue to get fruitier with the Kriek 100% Lambic Bio. 200g of Morello cherries to the litre are used in its making. The result is a very red beer! It has a little bit of fizz and carbonation to it and my tasting notes simply state that it is a cherry Danish pastry without the sweetness. It’s very cool to think that one can get that gustatory experience…in a bottle. Reminds me of a stage of Alice’s ‘Drink Me’ potion.

I laughed a little when reading over my tasting notes for the Lou Pepe Kriek, the first line of which is “HOLY FUCK ALMOND FROM THE STONES”. To be more elegant, I think that means I could detect the almond-scented arsenic that naturally appears in minute quantities in the stones of stone fruit.

Getting that out of the way, it tastes of natural sour, bitter cherries. Some fruit beers do have an artificial sort of taste to them, say, like Lindemans Kriek but not the Lou Pepe Kriek. The body of the beer is thicker than many tried that night with some carbonation. The beer itself was a deep, rich ruby red.

Sadly, both Tristan and I are missing photos of the Lou Pepe Kriek, so hop (hur hur) on over to Beer Advocate to check out a photo of the bottle.

The last two Cantillon beers were very reminiscent of wine. This is probably due to the use of grapes. With the Vigneronne, dried muscat grapes were used in its making due to their higher sugar content. Despite this, the end product was a watery, dead-on lemon juice which smelt awful and had no sweetness. It was also fairly ‘clean’ in that there was no farmyard scent characteristic of sour beers. Even though it didn’t smell pleasant, this did not mean it tasted unpleasant: basically, it was acidic and clean. It even looks like freshly squeezed lemon juice with its cloudy, golden ale colouring.

Our last beer in the tasting – the Saint Lamvinus, a dark, cloudy red beer that was lightly carbonated. It was both sour and bitter but mostly reminiscent of a sour wine. The red wine grapes merlot and cabernet Franc were used in fermentation of this.

I enjoyed this lambic tasting so much more than I thought I would and was pretty pleased that my tastebuds were up for the challenge. If you’re really fond of the cloudy, sour ciders then I think you should give lambics a go. I’d love to step things up a bit and buy a few bottles of lambics and experiment matching them with cheese! In fact, I may have committed a gluttonous crime of passion and polished off a sizeable hunk of Buche d’Affinois after the tasting…I devoured the poor thing as if it were a fast food burger.

If you want to learn a bit about these unusual beers, then of course the internet is your friend. Coincidentally, @hereforthehops wrote a terrific article about sour beer for Australian Brews News that I heartily recommend reading. Brett(anomyces) can sometimes be our friend!

waiter, there’s some whisky in my beer

If you’re puzzled as to why there is whisky in my beer, then you probably read yesterday’s post. It may help demystify you, as this is the second in a series of posts devoted to the Mikkeller showcase tasting at Slowbeer in Hawthorn. The first part of the tasting was on Mikkeller Beer Geek Weasel and some whisky barrel aged variants. The second half was for the Mikkeller Blacks. The Mikkeller Black series was brewed at De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium – as previously mentioned, the Mikkeller brewer is ‘homeless’ of a fashion. I just can’t get over how cool the concept is, of having a roving brewer…


The Mikkeller Black is a formidable beast. It is an imperial stout with a whopping 17.5% ABV. To get it to this ABV, champagne yeast was employed for fermentation, as was brewer’s sugar. Chris, our humble host and the manager of Slowbeer did well to warn us to have a full stomach prior to tasting! It had quite a savoury aroma but was very sweet, a thick, rich mouthfeel and did feel like too much after a while. I think it would be fantastic with dark, bitter chocolate (we’re talking the 75% cocoa content and above!).

The Mikkeller Black Whisky edition was sweet. At first, it was “zomg this is amazing and soooo delicious” and then all of a sudden, pow! it’d hit you and you’d be saying “get it away from me!”. Again quite rich, with a slight head due to less carbonation than its vanilla sibling above. This beer was aged in French whisky barrels for three months – they don’t say what alcohol exactly but it could be either calvados, cognac or armagnac. I found that the alcohol of the barrel permeated the taste very nicely and was well integrated.


The last of the special Mikkellers was the Black peated edition. This lives in peated whisky barrels for three months and it’s so obvious in the final beer. Jourdan of The Salving Font and I were really quite taken by this beer and even the day after, I could still taste it…taunted (and haunted) me for quite some time after. Easily the winner of the three for me.

To recap…

Mikkeller Black – even thicker mouthfeel than the Beer Geek Weasel Brunches. Higher alcohol content. A little goes a long way. Try with dark, bitter chocolate. Very sweet, rich imperial stout.

Mikkeller Black Whisky Edition – shame they do not specify what French liquor barrel used to contain (I find calvados quite appley). Sickeningly syrup-sweet but whisky is well integrated into the beer. Least favourite of the three.

Mikkeller Black Peated Edition – very little carbonation, with the peat adding a wonderful depth to the beer. A special drop indeed. Clearly for the serious beer lover, but if you can get your hands on a bottle, try it!

Alas yes, these were special releases and the Slowbeer tasting (seriously $30 for a taste of six beers!) was ridiculously good value. It was a great way to challenge the palate too. There are whispers of a lambic tasting in the future which I think would be terrific. There also tends to be discounts on purchases made in store after the tasting – can’t wait for the next one.

waiter, there’s some poo in my beer

A couple of weeks ago, the haven for many a beer nerd in Melbourne, Slowbeer had a tasting to showcase some dark beers from Danish brewery Mikkeller. In reality, the showcase focussed on variations of two of their beers, the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel and the Mikkeller Black.

What’s so special about Mikkeller, you’re thinking? For a start, the head brewer doesn’t have his own premises. He roams the lands far and wide like a gypsy and basically goes to existing breweries, sets up for a bit and does his thing. In fact, the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel was made at Nøgne Ø in Norway. You might recall that this Norwegian brewery picked up a slew of awards at the recent Australian International Beer Awards.

I missed out on trying the Beer Geek Breakfast when it was available – the fuss being that it contained ‘gourmet’ coffee and was supposedly suitable for breakfast drinking. Mentioning ‘beer’ and ‘breakfast’ in the same sentence also gives me an opportunity to flog that post again. So, with the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, they upped the ante and didn’t use any old coffee but the most bloody expensive coffee in the world – kopi luwak. Yes, yes, you’ve probably heard about it but let me tell you again because it’s quite exciting – a civet eats coffee berries and it pops out the other end having been…’treated’ by its digestive acids and thus leaving us humans with something of a delicacy. Also, cutest little baristas ever! Squeeeee! Ahem, sorry.


Thus the tasting begun: we forked over $30 per person and were huddled around the table in the shop. Was this madness? Leaving the warmth and comfort of home to try out civet-shit-coffee-poo beer? Pah, hardly! The BGBW is an imperial stout which also has a fair amount of oats as well as the infamous coffee. I find oats generally give stouts a smoother, silkier drinking experience.

Okay, I admit, I’m sexing up things a little. I blame the British in me: I’ve actually had this first beer before. It’s a luxurious experience. It pours near-black with a dark tan head and whiffs of its 11% ABV are oh so evident. Despite this being a strong beer, the alcohol is well integrated. This time around as compared to my very first taste, I found that with my first sip there was a hint of hops and every so often the civety-coffee aroma and taste would pop up. I think the coffee generally brings out the chocolatey characteristics of this stout.

Mmm. Perhaps in winter, I could possibly have it with brunch. Perhaps.


The second beer for tasting I doubt I would have in the daytime – this was the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Highland. The difference between this and its parent is that it is aged in Highland whisky barrels for three and a half months. This seemed to affect the beer’s carbonation considerably – there was virtually no head, less coffee presence to the palate and more savoury. While the whisky aroma was strong, the taste was but a whisper in the beer itself.

Second variation, third beer in the tasting – Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Islay. This time the beer is aged for two and a half months in Islay whisky barrels. I’d say that this was more of a success as compared to the Highland incarnation – there was more carbonation and thus more head (which is useful for imparting aroma before you even take a sip) and holy shit, it was peaty. The coffee was pretty hard to detect but this could have been because the whisky was more prominent than it was in previous one.

To recap…

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel: ace. Thick, chocolatey coffee goodness in imperial stout form. Great as a dessert beer for those who don’t like dessert! This is probably because I like to imagine imperial stout is choc mud cake in liquid form.

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Highland: lost the plot a little here, chaps – whisky-soaked barrels don’t add much to this already awesome drop. The low carbonation oddly enough dilutes the enjoyment of this beer.

Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Islay: a more successful venture with the whisky barrel ageing thing. Not as drinkable as the original but far more pleasing than the Highland version.

Rather than fatigue you, dear reader, permit me a pause in what is turning out to be a rather lengthy chronicle of the Mikkeller showcase tasting. Please check back tomorrow for the next instalment of the tasting on the Mikkeller Black variants.