Monday, August 26, 2013

Brouwerij Bavik - Petrus Aged Pale Ale Review

Old camera pictures: not so great.

Brewery: Brouwerij Bavik (BEL)
Style: Sour Ale
ABV: 7.3%
Grade: A

Can you imagine how hard it would have been to sell a beer described as sour to Americans twenty years ago? Talk about a marketing conundrum. I've noticed on a couple occasions that many breweries that have been producing sour beer for more than five or ten years — in other words, that have been producing sour beer before the craft beer crowd made the style their new darling — often use "oak-aged" as a sort of evasive short-hand to let you know the beer is sour.

Take Petrus Aged Pale, for example: based on the bottle alone, you wouldn't have the slightest idea this was a sour, a wild ale, anything. According to the bottle, it's an "aged pale ale aged in oak casks"; a "golden blond ale" brewed with the finest malt, hops and water; and also a "specialty pale ale," with the beer's unique aroma and taste the result of "maturing in oak barrels for over 20 months." Three chances to describe the beer, and not once do they mention that this basically has the profile of a geuze. Given current popular trends, the marketing of this beer makes it sound like it was written by a brewer time traveling from the 1800's.

All this is amusing to me, and my critiquing is entirely good-natured — I hope Petrus Aged Pale doesn't shock too many unwitting drinkers expecting a light yeasty Belgian pale, because this is, in fact, a very fine sour ale. The fruity, lemony, funky sourness is really not so far from the likes of Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze and Cantillon Geuze, though this beer is significantly easier to find, and cheaper too. What strikes me first is the incredible balance of complex, fruity funk with the sharper acidic tones. Any bitterness from the "pale" base of the beer has aged out, at this point, making the hops not so much a characteristic as a technique, and likely another marketing misdirection.

Carbonation isn't quite as high as many Belgian sours, but there's certainly enough to give the beer a lively, champagne-like quality. Petrus Aged Pale ends with succulent lemon, citrus, green apple and general tart fruit flavors, a relatively mild vinegar quality, and a nice puckering finish to keep you engaged. Oh, and who can forget the oak? Yes, as the bottle would like you to know — there's that, too. Unlike some, the sourness is never so intense as to wash out other flavors — Petrus Aged Pale is highly accessible, and deviously drinkable. 

Availability: One of the few sours to come in fourpacks, and priced well too. 350 ml bottle.

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