Reviewed: pFriem Oud Bruin
Official description: pFriem’s foudre barrel-aged Oud Bruin is a deep crimson beer featuring aromas of marionberry, apple butter and Cabernet, big notes of raspberry, fig, Sherry and leather with a tart, jammy finish that will make any beer lover tip their hat. Malt: Gambrinus Canadian Pilsner, Cara Munich, Cara Aroma, Carafa III, Cara Foam, Acidulated. Hops: Tettnang. Yeast: Belgian Ale, Brettanomyces, Lactic Bacterial Culture. Wood: French Oak barrels and French Oak Foudres. 8.7% ABV, 10 IBUs.
pFriem Family Brewers – pFriem Oud Bruin – 375mL bottle served in wine stemware – 8.7% ABV
Oud Bruin (Flemish for “Old Brown”) is one of my favorite beer styles, but it is tough to find on store shelves apart from mass market Belgian exports like those from Petrus, Liefman’s, and Ichtegem’s. But I wouldn’t recommend these beers because they snub the overcomplicated, traditional process and present the consumer with a bizarre mix of intense brown sugar with sharp vinegar-like acidity. Traditionally, Oud Bruin is a strong, dark, sweeter Belgian ale that is aged in oak barrels inoculated with resident microflora. After aging for up to several years, the end result can be a spectacular mix of dark fruits and leathery, tannic barrel character. It’s about as close as craft beer gets to excellent red wine, thus their nickname, the Burgundies of Belgium.
Like pFriem’s Flanders Red Kriek, I love the packaging and design for this beer. The minimalist label states only “pFriem Barrel Aged” while an understated neck label indicates the actual beer inside. Prying out the cork takes minimal effort while a modest pop signals excellent bottle conditioning. Into the glass, pFriem’s Oud Bruin is clear, deep maroon in color with an impressive head of thick, beige foam. Note that this bottle has significant sediment at the bottom.
Bringing up the glass, there’s an outstanding nose of jammy Pinot Noir with ample black cherry and raspberry along with saltwater, tamarind, and brown sugar. There’s a huge dose of peppery wood in there as well as a hint of alcohol to remind you this is almost 9%. The overall mix is both funky and mesmerizing.
Digging in, buttery oak barrel takes control with a fatty, rich flavor similar to pie crust. Baked strawberry and dark bread flavors intermingle with mild tannins and soft alcohol. The texture of this dark sour is phenomenal. Just a touch of sweetness allows the whole mixture to pop. In addition, heavy carbonation from beginning to end gives the beer a vivacity that’s missing in most dark sours.
Overall acidity is at a shockingly low 3/10. That means you get to enjoy all of the wonders of a barrel-aged dark sour without the enamel dissolving sourness. Sweetness is also nicely relegated to a 3/10. The underlying beer is indeed light-bodied and delicate. Some faux density comes from the fattiness brought on by the barrel character that adds a vanilla-like oiliness. A neutral, quick finish has you begging for more.
pFriem’s Oud Bruin is a masterpiece. This is one of the best dark sours I’ve had in a long time. It reminds me of other classics like Russian River Consecration or New Belgium La Folie. I just wish it was more accessible.
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