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It’s back!  The educational part of STL Hops is back in effect this week with one of our always enjoyable articles, Know Your Styles. This edition of KYS is being brought to you by John Steckert (vyvvy on the forums). Without any hyperbole, John is probably one of the most knowledgeable beer guys in St. Louis, so I’m excited he helped out with this series!

Thanks again to Paul from the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton for supplying some of the beers for this feature. Also, if you’re interested in writing a Know Your Styles article, feel free to email me.

Flanders Red

Flanders Red is a style loved by some off the bat, hated by others and yet another group that moved from the hate to love category. This is not a style with a huge amount of people taking a middle ground opinion. While sourness in beers has become quite a phenomenon recently, it is far from being a new aspect to beer. Most of the earliest beers were sour due to wild airborne yeast and bacteria handling the fermentation. As brewers began to have more control over the fermentation process they were able to eliminate traits they didn’t want in their beers, so sourness was an aspect removed from many beer styles. Those that brewed what is now known as Flanders Red ales thankfully chose not to eliminate this aspect. The Flanders area of Belgium is the northern Flemish Dutch speaking portion of Belgium. The production of Flanders Red and Brown ales is also somewhat divided with the West portion known more prominently for the Flanders Red style while the East is credited for the Flanders Brown. The Flanders Brown style is aged in steel, malty with dark fruit flavors and very mild, if any, sourness. That is different from its cousin covered here, Flanders Red.

The ‘red wine of beers’ is a moniker that has been bestowed to Flanders Red ales at times due to the sharpness and tannin-like qualities. The unique flavor attributed with this style is mainly due to yeasts, bacteria and barrel aging that is often incorporated. In addition to using the ale yeast saccharomyces some Flanders Reds also use brettanomyces which will help provide the beer with a wild musty character. One type of bacteria that is often utilized is lactobacillus which will add tartness much as it does with its work in yogurt and sauerkraut.

Another bacteria souring things up is acetobacter; this bacteria brings a sharp acidity and is the same bacteria used for the production of vinegar. Many of these beers are aged in wood which facilitates a conducive environment for the yeast and bacteria to affect (or infect) the beer as it matures as well as provides flavors such as oak and vanilla. Some Flanders Reds are blended with young and aged beer which provides a balance of flavors and offers more consistency in the product. The younger beer assists in offsetting the sourness of the matured beer.

Rodenbach Grand Cru is a landmark beer of this style and has been very influential in the style’s history. The brewery itself has been distinguished as a national landmark. Back in 1821 four brothers (Alexander, Pedro, Ferdinand and Constantijn Rodenbach) purchased a local brewery. While all four invested in this venture, Alexander was the first to run the brewery. Aside from the brewery, Alexander lived an eventful life; he was blinded at age 11 from a fairground shooting gallery, devised a form of Braille, was elected mayor, served as a member of parliament for 37 years and took part in the movement for Belgium’s independence in 1830. In 1836 Pedro bought out his brothers’ ownership and became the brewery’s sole owner. This is when the brewery officially became The Brewery Rodenbach. The brewery remained a family business when Pedro’s son Edward took over in 1864 and later when Edward’s son Eugene headed operations in 1878.

Eugene was instrumental in how the brewery evolved and what the signature Rodenbach beers we drink today became. In the 1870s Eugene traveled to England to learn brewing techniques including ripening beer in oak barrels and blending of young and aged beers. When Eugene utilized the skills he had learned in England in his own unique way back at his own brewery, the style of beer we enjoy today started being brewed and perfected. Eugene died at the age of 39 in 1889 and did not have a son to inherit the brewery. Due to this the Rodenbach Brewery became a corporation, but was still primarily family owned. Over the years the family’s investment in the company shrank and in 1998 the brewery was fully purchased by Palm Breweries. Palm still produces the classic Rodenbach beers out of the brewery today.

Photographs inside the brewery show large rows of giant oak tuns that are up to 160 years old. Almost 300 tuns are contained in six rooms with tuns able to hold between 100-600 hectoliters (85-511 barrels). Every tun is scraped after each usage so that the wood continues to impart character to each batch it contains. The yeast used for Rodenbach has been utilized for the past 70 years and analysis has determined that there are at least 20 cultures present and at work. Due to these distinctive traits Rodenbach produces a truly unique beer in this very unique style.

As is the case for in writing these articles, it was nice to have an excuse to try many Flemish Reds in a fairly short amount of time for the sake of comparison. The beers sampled for this style were Rodenbach Grand Cru, New Belgium La Folie (2005 & 2009), New Glarus Enigma, Monk’s Café, Ichtegem Grand Cru, Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne, Verhaeghe Vichtenaar, Bacchus, Bierre Trois Dames Grand Dame, Panil Barriquée Batch #11 and Petrus Aged Pale. Most Flanders Red beers are between 5-6% in alcohol with some exceptions that reach a bit higher. The highest in alcohol in the ones listed is the Panil Barriquée at 8%.

What you should be seeing

Flanders Reds are commonly dark brown with a red hue and display a good amount of clarity. The head ranges from off-white to tan and is generally pretty persistent. One exception in the examples is Petrus Aged Pale which has more of a golden/orange color. While not completely true to the Flemish Red Style the tartness, aging process and flavors put this close enough to the category to be included.

There was not much variance in the appearance of the beers. Rodenbach was slightly lighter in color, but the lightest in color were New Glarus Enigma and the 2005 La Folie, except for the Petrus which wasn’t brown or red at all. Panil was the only one that had murky quality to it.

What you should be smelling

There can be quite a myriad of aromas from the Flanders Red style. The malt presence ranges from minimal to quite prevalent. The malt perceived generally has an inverse correlation with the sourness levels. Some aroma aspects you may perceive are cherries, sourness, acidity, oranges, lemons, vanilla, oak, spicy phenols, tart apples, iron and other minerals along with some caramel and mild sweetness from the malt.

Variance abounded in the aroma. All had some degree of sourness and a cherry-like quality. Vichtenaar has the most cherry presence, but it is also the only one that actually contains cherries as an ingredient. The maltier of the bunch would be Bacchus, Ichtegem Grand Cru and Duchesse De Bourgogne while the on the sour side would be La Folie, Grande Dame and Petrus Aged Pale. The older version of La Folie was by far the most sour and acidic; however the more recent version still packs a punch, but its more balanced in flavor. Rodenbach had the one of the more enticing aromas with a lot of the expected sour traits, but they were restrained and not overpowering with some sweetness and oak balancing what could have been harsh.

What you should be tasting

All examples display sourness to varying extents with some examples malty with mild sourness to others showcasing intense sourness. You may detect fruit flavors of cherries, red currants, plums, prunes, oranges or lemons. Acidity can show aspects of vinegar, lactic acid, citrus and/or a tannin-like presence giving red wine traits. Most examples are generally quite dry and overall refreshing. One thing you shouldn’t detect is hops, the IBU level for the style is usually 25 or less with almost all the perceived sourness and bitterness coming from yeast, bacteria and aging process.

The malty and sour leaders in aroma predictably were the same for the taste. The examples were medium bodied with the ones leaning to the sour side seeming to have a crisper body, but this may be due to sharp taste giving that perception. The sour vinegar-like presence was quite high in a couple (2005 La Folie, Grande Dame), moderate in some (2009 La Folie, Monk’s Café, Petrus Aged Pale) and absent in others (Duchesse De Bourgogne, New Glarus Enigma and Ichegem Grand Cru). New Glarus Enigma had the heaviest amount of oak presence with it dominating the palate. Others that had noticeable oak presence, but not overpowering, were Rodenbach, Duchesse De Bourgogne, both La Folies and Petrus Aged Pale. Panil had the distinction of being the most rustic of the bunch. The oak was very earthy and there was a heavy mineral presence.

How you should be drinking

Flanders Red is generally served in a snifter, tulip or tumbler. While the refreshing qualities provide an argument for a tumbler, I find a tulip or snifter works best. The Spiegelau tulip glass is a personal favorite as evidenced in the pictures.

The crispness of these beers lends themselves well to shellfish and salads. Many also pair the beers with duck. Due to the sharpness and sourness of the beers they can cleanse your palate during a beer tasting as well.

What you should be buying

The majority of Flanders Red ales are still brewed in Belgium including the benchmark Rodenbach Grand Cru. Two of the examples sampled were produced in the United States (New Glarus Enigma and New Belgium La Folie), one was brewed in Italy (Panil Barriquée) and another from Switzerland (Bierre Trois Dames Grande Dame). All of these are available locally except New Glarus Enigma which is only available in Wisconsin. Also, in order to get Rodenbach Grand Cru you will need to go to an Illinois shop since it isn’t currently distributed in Missouri.

Related styles

Flanders Brown and lambics

This week’s Know Your Styles is being brought to you by John Steckert (vyvvy on the forums). Without any hyperbole, John is probably one of the most knowledgeable beer guys in St. Louis, so I’m excited he helped out with this series!

Thanks again to Paul from the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton for supplying the beers for this feature. Also, if you’re interested in writing a Know Your Styles article, feel free to email me. Here’s a great beer to beat this June heat:



Hoegaarden – not just a brand of beer on the shelves. Hoegaarden (pronounced “who garden”) is a village about a half hour east of Brussels. There are records of breweries existing in this village as early at the 1300-1400s. At that time, and long thereafter, the beverages would be made according to the grains grown in the area. This area’s soil was well suited for wheat, and not far away were areas that were fertile for barley. Wits traditionally use malted barley, unmalted wheat and possibly a small amount of oats. The earlier versions of this style probably did not use hops, but instead used herbs and spices to offset the sweetness of the malt. This is represented in today’s style of witbier being spiced with coriander and Curaçao orange peel. Other spices are acceptable in the beer such as chamomile, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and grains of paradise; however, they are generally a much more minor flavoring. Even today with hops being used in the beer, they are generally not very prevalent in the taste.

In the 1500s the beer industry in village of Hoegaarden was doing so well they were able to organize their own brewer’s guild and in the early 1800s there were over thirty breweries in the village due in large part to the high quality witbier that was produced from the area. However, the glory days were in trouble due to the lager revolution that began in the early 1800s. The lagers that had begun to be produced were crystal clear, lighter in color, had higher level of consistency and only used hops as a balance to the malt. By the end of the 1800s the beer world was being taken over by lagers, even in Belgium which is hard to fathom considering what the beer landscape used to be and what it is in today’s age. Hoegaarden was a small village that once was home to over thirty breweries and in the 1957 the last Hoegaarden brewer closed down and the witbier style had died.

Pierre Celis, a milkman from Hoegaarden, was talking among his friends and reminiscing about the witbiers of years gone by and his enjoyment of them. Celis had helped in a brewery in his younger years and knew some of the production procedures. He decide to make a change in the “white” liquid he worked with and opened a brewery in 1966 called De Kluis in his early 40s. This brewery is now well known as the Hoegaarden Brewery. Celis thought that his beer would lend itself to the older crowd and was surprised when it was welcomed and enjoyed by many of the younger beer lovers. The brewery was a success, but with success came other problems. After a while the demand became so high at times that he couldn’t keep up with it. In attempts to expand the brewery after a devastating brewery fire the financial strain became too much for Celis and in 1985 he sought financial assistance from Interbrew. Yes, this is the company that became InBev when they merged with AmBev in 2004.

After Celis selling the brewery to Interbrew he moved to the United States in 1992 to open up the Celis Brewery in Austin, TX where he made his witbier called Celis White for the U.S. market. Once again there was a financial strain and he sought assistance from one of the big guys, this time it was Miller brewing. This was not the most comfortable of relationships and in 2000 Miller withdrew from the relationship and the brewery closed. A version Celis White is still being produced in the U.S. by the Michigan Brewing Company. There is also a Celis White brewed in Belgium by Brouweif Van Steenberg, who is also the brewer of Gulden Draak and Piraat. The popularity of this style has grown dramatically over the years and many versions of witbiers can be found throughout Belgium, the United States and other countries.

This article was a reason to sample as many wits as I could due to this being one of my favorite styles. The beers I sampled of this once dead, now resurrected, style are St. Bernarus Wit, Ommegant Witte, Hoegaarden, Avery White Rascal, New Belgium Mothership Wit, Blanche de Bruxelles, Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca, Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, Blance de Namur, Allagash White, Charleville Half Wit Wheat, Boulevard Zon and Mattingly BrightSide Belgium White. All of the wits I sampled were between 4.4%-5.5% in alcohol. There is not much deviance in the alcohol content in witbier.


What you should be seeing

Witbiers are pale straw to golden in color and is cloudy due to the yeast and/or proteins contained in the beer. Unlike many beers, the sediment of witbiers is meant to be consumed with the beer. Generally you will want to pour into your glass a little over ¾ of the bottle and then swirl the bottle and pour the rest into your glass. Not only will this produce an attractive milky appearance to the beer and dense white heat that has good retention, but as an added bonus getting all of the yeast into your glass will help your hair and skin due to the nutrients found in the yeast. Beauty benefits from drinking beer.

Most of the beers I sampled were colored fairly similarly yellow / golden. A couple were lighter yellow (Hoegaarden, Avery) and two were more on the orange / golden side (St. Bernardus, Ommegang). All of them had attractive, good-sized, white heads.

What you should be smelling

There can be moderate sweetness, but often has a bit of tartness. There can be light grainy wheat, some spiciness, moderate coriander, and orange fruitiness. The beers can be quite complex for a lower alcohol beer and also include herbal, spice peppery notes and some zestiness. The hops should be fairly low with spicy traits. While spices are there, they should not be overpowering.

The wheat was not overly prevalent in any of the beers sampled. A couple that had some age did have a sweeter, more malt prevalent side. The Blanche de Bruxelles and Ommegang were the smoothest of the bunch while the drier were the Hoegaarden, Mattingly, Avery and Unibroue. The Avery was also the heaviest I had displaying the coriander; Jolly Pumpkin had the most spiciness of the bunch, but it seemed to incorporate more than just coriander. Mattingly also had some ginger present. All examples had orange present with the aged showing more of dullness and the fresher displaying a more lively presence. Throughout it seemed the fresher, the better, for the style.


What you should be tasting

Wits will generally have a light pleasant sweetness that can display honey or vanilla notes on the initial taste, but often finish refreshingly crisp and dry and sometimes even have tartness to them. They can even have a light lactic tartness. Zesty citrus can be present from the dried Curaçao orange peel (Curaçao oranges are bitter oranges that are actually green when ripened). Herbal and spicy flavors are present due to the coriander and other spices that can be present. A small spicy or earthy presence from hops can be present, but minor. Bitterness shouldn’t be present.

Most examples had a medium / thin body with the Ommegang and St. Bernardus being the most full bodied of the bunch and Charleville being the lightest bodied. The palate generally started out smooth and finished crisp with Jolly Pumpkin, Blanche de Bruxelles and Mattingly being the crispest of the group. The spicing of coriander was prevalent in all that were sampled. Other spices noticed were traces of possible cinnamon in Blanche de Bruxelles, slight ginger in Mattingly and a variety of spices that come from Jolly Pumpkin which could be from other spices used, the barrel aging utilized or a combination of the two. Orange zest was also noticeable in all samples with Allagash showing more crispness and a noticeable sharpness from Jolly Pumpkin. Other traits noticed were light oak and bit of funk from Jolly Pumpkin, some powdery traits from New Belgium and the driest wit I’ve probably ever had from Mattingly.

How you should be drinking

Wits are adaptable to many styles of glassware. Many sources state that they should be served in a tumbler or weizen glass. The Hoegaarden tumbler is quite attractive and very sturdy as well. However, I think they go great in tulip glass and especially New Belgium’s globe glass.

Wits flavorful, but not overwhelming assertiveness, pair well with shellfish, salads, creamy cheeses and fresh fruit. The spices in the beer will also lend it to pair well with spicy foods such as Thai food or Indian Curry dishes.


What you should be buying

The original, Hoegaarden, is one to try for sure (regardless of your feelings towards InBev). Other Belgian offering available are Vuuve, St. Bernardus Wit, Blance de Bruxelles and Blanche de Namur. Unibroue from Canada has a respectable Blanche de Chambly. There are many good US examples to buy at your local bottle shops such as Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca, Allagash White, Victory Whirlwind Wit, New Holland Zoomer wit, Avery White Rascal, Ommegang Witte, and our local Charleville Half Wit Wheat. A couple that are only on tap in the area are Mattingly BrightSide Belgian White available year round and Schlafly Wit which is a summer seasonal.

Related styles

Hefeweizen, American wheat and gruit

This week’s Know Your Styles is being brought to you by John Steckert (vyvvy on the forums). Without any hyperbole, John is probably one of the most knowledgeable beer guys in St. Louis, so I’m excited he helped out with this series!

Thanks again to Paul from the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton for supplying the beers for this feature. Also, if you’re interested in writing a Know Your Styles article, feel free to email me.


Belgian Tripel

Just northeast of Antwerp, Belgium in the town of Malle is the quiet area where Belgium Tripel began, the Westmalle Abbey. Westmalle first became a monastery in 1794 by monks from La Trappe who fled La Trappe due to the adverse climate towards monks. In 1836 Westmalle became a Trappist Abbey as well as brewed their first beer. Initially the beer was only brewed for the monks themselves. Beer was not sold to the public until 1856 and even then it was sporadic. As the popularity rose in their beer they began to sell it with more frequency and their production grew leading to expansions of their brewery in 1865 and 1897. In 1921 Westmalle finally entered into the beer trade industry and built the brewing hall in 1930 that is still currently in use.

The first tripel brewed by Westmalle was in 1934 according to their website. However, there is speculation that the style could have been brewed as early as 1906. According to Michael Jackson the first tripel may have been brewed by Hendrik Verlinden, who was later a consultant for Westmalle, in a suburb on Antwerp. The Westmalle brewery was modernized in 1956 and the recipe for the tripel has remained unchanged since that time. Draft magazine’s May / June 2008 edition gave Westmalle’s tripel a score of 100. This was the first time the magazine had given a 100 score.

Four of the beers sampled for this were from Trappist breweries – Westmalle, Chimay, La Trappe and Achel. There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world – the above four and Rochefort, Westvleteren and Orval. Three of the criteria the beers must meet to be Trappist are 1) The beers must be brewed in the Trappist abbey either by the monks or under their supervision, 2) The brewery must be controlled by the monastery and the business culture must be compatible with the monastic project and 3) The purpose of brewing is not for profit; the income is to take care of the monks and the upkeep of the abbey. Money left over is to be used for charitable purposes, social work and those in need.

Initially the definition of a tripel came from the strength of the beer. The singel would be the lowest alcohol beer produced, followed by the dubbel and the strongest as the tripel. However, each of these has now is more characterized by the type of beer it has become associated with. The tripel is now associated with the characteristics listed below. While between the three it is generally the highest in alcohol, it is no longer the determining factor of the label ‘tripel’. Most tripels today are between 8%-10% alcohol.
The beers sampled were Westmalle tripel (9.5%), Chimay tripel (8%), La Trappe tripel (8% and aged about five years), Achel blond (8%), St. Bernardus (8%), Mardesous 10 (10% – two bottles sampled one was a couple month old and the other 1 year old) and Tripel Karmeliet (8%). The first four are Trappist ales, the second two are abbey ales and the last is from a commercial brewery.


What you should be seeing

Belgian tripels are deep yellow to deep gold with good clarity and can be quite effervescent. The head should be long lasting, creamy, rocky and white. Many times they will give ‘Belgian lace’ as the beer is consumed so you can see the different level the liquid was in the glass. Bottles should be stored upright and poured carefully to leave the bottle conditioning yeast in the bottle.
There was quite a bit of differentiation in the beers sampled here. There was a deep yellow / golden in the Westmalle and Tripel Karmeliet to a copper / bronze color for Mardesous and La Trappe. Most of those sampled had a dense white head except for the aged La Trappe which had very little head at all.

What you should be smelling

Belgian tripels are generally quite complex. They should contain moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruit esters, low alcohol aromas, minor hops that can be spicy, floral or purfumy, a spicy peppery character that can be clove-like phenols, banana notes and low malt.

Banana notes were found in the Westmalle, St. Bernardus, Mardesous and Chimay. It seemed that the older the beer was the richer the banana. Also the beers with a bit more age showed caramel and doughy traits. The La Trappe had become very heavy with alcohol and caramel and had really lost complexity. The younger beers smelled much more crisp and lively. The Tripel Karmeliet even had some stone fruit traits.


What you should be tasting

There should be low to moderate spice, fruity flavors supported by the soft malt along with some acceptable soft alcohol presence. Esters of orange or banana are acceptable. Tripels can be a bit sweet and low in intensity for the amount of alcohol present. The bitterness is generally medium to high from the hop bitterness and yeast produced phenols. There is usually quite a bit of carbonation and a dry finish.

Most of the examples tasted had a bit of breadiness to them. The youngest ones, Tripel Karmeliet and the young Mardesous showed no bready traits, but had toasty malt. The La Trappe had become thin, sour and alcoholic and had lost all distinctive tripel traits. There were hops noticeable in almost all of the beers sampled that were on the spicy side – the younger the beer the higher the hop presence. Alcohol was noticeable in all of the examples, but it was welcoming in all except for the La Trappe.

How you should be drinking

Tripels are best served in a fairly wide mouthed glass. Trappist glasses, tulips or other examples of wide-mouth stemmed glass work great. Belgian tripels go very good with a number of rich desserts, high fat cheeses and as an after dinner digestif. The Chimay Classic and Grand Cru cheeses at The Wine & Cheese Place went great with these tripels.

What you should be buying

For Trappist ales only the four mentioned above brew tripels – Westmalle, Chimay, La Trappe and Achel. Other Belgian tripels to try are St. Bernardus, Mardesous 10, Watou, Tripel Karmeliet, Gouden Caroules and Corsendonk pale ale. There are also many respectable tripels brewed in the U.S. including Allagash Tripel Reserve, Victory Golden Monkey, Boulevard Long Strange Tripel and Schlafly Tripel. And don’t forget about our friends up north with Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde from Canada.

Related styles

Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Singel, Belgian Blond, Belgian Golden Strong

It’s time for another additional for Know Your Styles. This week’s style, the Berliner Weiss, is being brought to you by Brad Mock. Brad is a local homebrewer with the St. Louis Brews. If you attend the meeting, he’s one of the guys that brings you beer and food, which means you should always be nice to him. Also, a thanks to Paul from The Wine and Cheese Place for supplying beer for this feature. Without further ado, the Berliner Weiss.

Berliner Weiss
As the French Protestants Reformers known as the Huguenots were making their way to Flanders in the 1600s, they documented a particular beer as they passed through Berlin. Later in 1809, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his troops decided to celebrate their Prussian victory with that same type of beer, which the Napoleon referred to as the “Champagne of the North”. That beer, of course, is Berliner Weisse.Berliner Weiss is a very specific style of wheat beer most often originating from Berlin, Germany.

An interesting note about this style is that is one of the lowest in alcohol among all styles, with the the BJCP guidelines listing it between 2.8-3.8% ABV. The two examples I enjoyed were Bayerischer Bahnof Lepzig (3%) and 1809 by Dr. Fritz Briem (unusual at 5%).

Interesting facts
Unlike any other beer I can think of, it is served in a large goblet with a straw. Because of its sour taste, it is commonly drunk mixed with raspberry (Himbeersirup), woodruff (Waldmeistersirup) syrup, or lemon (Zitronensirup) and is then called Weiße mit Schuss (Weiße with a shot [of syrup]). The mixtures are called Berliner Weiße rot, grün, or gelb respectively. This mixed drink is very refreshing in the hot summer months and is served throughout Berlin. For my tasting, Paul provided authentic German raspberry syrup. I decided to drink half way through, then mix the syrup in.

As described in one of my homebrew books and also on the label of the 1809, the wort or a portion of the wort in this beer is not boiled. The boiling kills off the natural bacteria to allow the yeast to ferment the beer without other “critters” infecting your finished beer.

This beer has been described by some as the most purely refreshing beer in the world.

What you should be smelling
A sharply sour, somewhat acidic character is dominant. Can have up to a moderately fruity character. The fruitiness may increase with age and a flowery character may develop. A mild Brettanomyces aroma may be present. No hop aroma. The 1809 was much more sharp in sourness than the BBL, but the BBL did show some light fruit notes.

What you should be seeing
Very pale straw in color. Clarity ranges from clear to somewhat hazy. Large, dense, white head with poor retention due to high acidity and low protein and hop content. Always effervescent. The 1809 poured like champagne as you can see in the pictures. The BBL was very similar to most other wheat beers, but lost it’s head quickly.

What you should be tasting
Clean lactic sourness dominates and can be quite strong, although not so acidic as a lambic. Some complementary bready or grainy wheat flavor is generally noticeable. Hop bitterness is very low. A mild Brettanomyces character may be detected, as may a restrained fruitiness (both are optional). Again, no hops. I didn’t even pick up light bitterness. The 1809 came through with the sour, but was not sharp. You might expect a real sour kick from the aroma, but it’s not really like that.

What you should be tasting with syrup
Awesomeness. The super sweet syrup rounds off the sourness and turns this into a happy little mixed drink. It wasn’t bad at all to start, but this is like raspberry Kool-Aid with a tiny punch. Ohh-Yeah!

Additonal comments from the BJCP guidelines
Wheat malt content is typically 50% of the grist (as with all German wheat beers) with the remainder being Pilsner malt. A symbiotic fermentation with top-fermenting yeast and Lactobacillus delbruckii provides the sharp sourness, which may be enhanced by blending of beers of different ages during fermentation and by extended cool aging. Hop bitterness is extremely low. A single decoction mash with mash hopping is traditional.

Vital Statistics
OG: 1.028 – 1.032
IBUs: 3 – 8
FG: 1.003 – 1.006
SRM: 2 – 3
ABV: 2.8 – 3.8%

Commercial examples
Schultheiss Berliner Weisse, Berliner Kindl Weisse, Nodding Head Berliner Weisse, Weihenstephan 1809 (unusual in its 5% ABV), Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse, Southampton Berliner Weisse, Bethlehem Berliner Weisse, Three Floyds Deesko.

New Glarus also made a version available last summer. I don’t know if they are planning that again, but it was very good.

Final thoughts
The two commercial examples I was provided were both great beers, but the BBL is probably closer to the style guidelines. It was very refreshing, especially when you add in the syrup. If you haven’t tried a Berliner Weisse style beer, do yourself a favor this summer and grab one (preferably from The Wine and Cheese Place). Even if you’re tried other sour beers and didn’t like them, you may enjoy this one. While you’re at it, get some of the syrup. I think it was $.99 and it would also be great over ice cream.

This week’s Know Your Styles is being brought to you by John Steckert (vyvvy on the forums). Without any hyperbole, John is probably one of the most knowledgeable beer guys in St. Louis, so I’m excited he helped out with this series! Thanks again to Paul from the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton for supplying the beers for this feature. Also, if you’re interested in writing a Know Your Styles article, feel free to email me.


Northern English Brown Ale

The brown ales we have today have their roots with English Mild Ales. The mild ales were quite popular as a harvest time drink and were used to refresh the manual workers in London. While the mild ales are relatively low in alcohol, the reason for the name is the low amount of hop bitterness imparted by the beer. The color of the mild ales varied with some being quite pale in color to being as dark as a porter.

In the 1920s brown ale style were derived from the dark mild ales and there were two styles that were mainly separated by region – Southern English and Northern English.

Southern English Brown Ales were quite mild in alcohol content and significantly darker than the Northern English Brown Ales. The dark brown coloring many times has to do with caramel or black invert sugar being used to give it the darker color. Most of the Southern variety is very dark and almost opaque and has quite a sweet palate. And like the milds that it came from, the hop presence and alcohol content is very light. The popularity of this style has declined significantly and will likely never be written up here on “know your styles” if for no other reason, that there are few, if any, examples of this in the area.

Northern English Brown Ales are generally medium gravity and alcohol content (4.2%-5.4%). While there is some sweetness this is an all malt beer with no additives like its Southern version. The Northern English Brown Ales also have more of a hop presence than Milds or Southern Browns. This style has risen considerable in popularity.

One of the earliest versions is still one of the most popular brown ales today, Newcastle. The Newcastle Brewery was a merger of several local beer makers and was created in 1890. The Newcastle Brown Ale was created Colonel Porter (ironic name for the beer created) over a three year span and was introduced in 1927. It began winning awards the following year and over 80 years later is the most popular brown ale in the world.

The Northern English Brown Ales I sampled for this were Newcastle, Samuel Smith Nut Brown, Wychwood Hobgoblin for the English versions and Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale and Lost Coast Downtown Brown for American takes on the style.


What you should be seeing

Northern English Browns are clear dark amber to reddish brown with a head that is somewhere between off-white to light tan. All of the beers sample for this looked almost identical on their pours – very dark brown with a reddish tint and a light tan head. The only one that looked a bit different was the Sam Smith since it was a bit darker than the rest.

What you should be smelling

The aroma should be malty with some nuttiness and possibly some caramel or toffee. There should be some light sweetness, it may have some light hop notes, light fruity esters and little to no diacetyl. The aromas of the beers sampled had some differences. The Newcastle had toasted malt, biscuit, caramel and a hint of diacetyl. Sam Smith’s was very nutty, heavier breadiness and moderate sweetness. The Hobgoblin was very nutty, very sweet and lots of dough and toffee. None of the three English versions had any hops of mention. The US versions both had toastier malt, lighter on the nuttiness and some hop presence.

What you should be tasting

There should be gentle to moderate malt sweetness with a nutty, light caramel character. There can best toasted, biscuit or toffee-like character. The bitterness level should be medium to medium-low. The hop flavor can be light, but none noticeable is also acceptable. Fruity esters can be present and well as low diaceytl. The finish should be medium-dry to dry. All of the examples I had displayed some nutty flavors along with toasted malt. The Hobgoblin was by far the sweetest of the bunch, while Avery was the driest and toastiest along with the hoppiest of the bunch. Sam Smith displayed the ester like aspects more than the others. The only one that I detected any diacetyl was in Newcastle, but it was very light.

How you should be drinking

Most traditional glassware will work just fine for Northern English Brown Ales. I’ve found recommendations for dimpled mugs, but since I didn’t have any of those I used a simple handled pint glass. Shaker pints and imperial pint glasses work fine for the style as well. Brown ales pair well with many meat dishes as well as smoked fish and heartier salads.

pint_nonic_glass.jpg dimpled_mug_glass.jpg

What you should be buying

While Newcastle has probably been on about everyone’s list at some point other examples of other English versions available are Wychwood Hobgoblin, Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale and Riggwelter Yorkshire Ale. We also have many US examples available of this English style including Bell’s Best Brown, Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale, Goose Island Nut Brown Ale, Lost Coast’s Downtown Brown, Bear Republic Pete’s Brown Ale, Wolaver Brown Ale, Arcadia Nut Brown, Barley Island’s Dirty Helen and many others.

Related styles

Milds, Southern English Browns, American Brown Ales

This week’s Know Your Styles is being brought to you by Eric Burnley. Eric takes on the once almost extinct style of Oatmeal Stout! Thanks again to Paul from the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton for supplying the beers for this feature.  Also, if you’re interested in writing a Know Your Styles article, feel free to email me.


Oatmeal Stout

Beer: It’s Nutritional – not just for Dad, but now for lactating Moms!

Believe it or not, that’s how Oatmeal Stouts were originally marketed in the late 19th century. While today we know that women drinking alcohol while pregnant or nursing may result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, in certain circles, portions of that thought are still prevalent today. My wife (a certified Lamaze instructor, doula, nurse, childbirth guru) chuckled when I mentioned it, but she then pointed me to some recipes for ‘Lactation cookies’ that feature both oatmeal and brewers yeast (yeast used in making beer). Now, I’ve not yet researched into the benefits of brewers yeast and oatmeal for lactating moms, but- I may have finally found the ULTIMATE Mother’s Day gift.

Stouts in general date back to the 16th century Porter style: stout was actually a type of strong/bold porter, called a ‘stout porter’, a term used by Guinness beginning in 1820. Originally the term ‘stout’ simply referred to a strong beer, but ultimately through its frequent use as ‘stout porter’, stout became synonymous with a dark, strong beer. There are several types of stouts: dry stouts, sweet or milk stouts, imperial stouts, hoppy American stouts, Foreign extra stouts, and Oatmeal Stouts.

As stated previously, Oatmeal Stout originally rose to popularity in the late 19th century, framed as a nutritional drink. [Remember all those ‘Guinness is Good For You’ ads?] The amount of oatmeal varied greatly, up to 30% and even as low as 0.5%. The latter was pretty much a marketing gimmick recipe; a seemingly popular practice was to brew the same beer with the same oatmeal ratio and simply market it under different names. A beer with 0.5% Oatmeal still could technically be called an Oatmeal Stout, but it was also sold as porter and regular stout. Today, most examples include about 5-10% Oatmeal, though some commercial examples may exceed that. Oatmeal tends to give the beer a creamy, silky texture, lending it a smooth character that could also be bolstered by soft carbonation.

Oatmeal Stout fell into relative obscurity in the mid-20th century until about 1980, when Samuel Smith’s was asked by Charles Finkel, founder of Merchant du Vin, to brew up some. At that point, they were brewing the only readily available Oatmeal Stout, and theirs became the prime example for other brewers to follow. Since then, Oatmeal Stout has become a fairly popular beer with brewers all over the world. I decided to try the original, Sam Smith’s, as well as a couple of American varieties: local favorite Schlafly’s Oatmeal Stout and Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout.

What you should be seeing: Stouts in general should be an extremely dark brown, almost black color with a slight reddish or ruby hue visible around the edge of the glass. Oatmeal stouts usually have large, fluffy, rocky off-white or light tan heads that persist well. My examples were all very dark, but the Sam Smith’s was a touch lighter, showing more garnet hue around the edge of the glass. The heads were all large and rocky: the Sam Smith’s was tan in color, the Anderson Valley was darker, and the Schlafly was more of an off-white. The Sam Smith’s head dissipated as it warmed, but the other two faded more slowly.

What you should be smelling: The first thing you should detect is a bit of roasted grain aroma. There will often be a creamy coffee smell, possibly supplemented by a bit of caramel sweetness. Some examples may have a certain fruity character derived from use of British yeast. There should be little to no detectable hop presence. The main aromas would be roast, coffee, caramel, and cream. The Schlafly had a very apparent roast character, with little to no caramel malt aroma. The aroma was detectably dry, with a faint hint of hops (this example was bottled in December, so it’s a touch old and any fresh hop notes probably have faded by now). The Anderson Valley had a less bold roast aroma, and I noted it had relatively little going on aroma-wise until it warmed up. Then it gained some ground with a touch of sweet caramel malt and a little coffee and cream. The Sam Smith’s was the most fragrant of the three, with an extremely bold coffee and cream nose, plenty of sweet caramel malt, and a touch of roast. There was a bit of fruity aroma from the British yeast, and the malt aroma was very intriguing. As it warmed, I found myself simply enjoying the nose again and again.

What you should be tasting: Oatmeal stouts should have an overall semi-sweet, semi-dry character with complexities of roast, coffee, cream, and sweet malt. The oatmeal should give the beer a soft and silky mouthfeel. There should be a bit of hop bitterness, but nothing overtly bitter and no real late-hopping flavor. The Anderson Valley was a bit bland when cold; as it warmed, more coffee and cream notes came out, and the roast flavor was balanced well. It had a nice caramel sweetness, but was not too sweet, and finished dry. The carbonation was soft, and it was very drinkable and enjoyable. The Schlafly’s flavor matched well with its aroma: plenty of roast character, almost with a slight touch of smoke or char. It was rather dry overall, but there was a touch of sweet malt character in the moment of tasting, finishing dry. The roasted barley shines through. The carbonation is a bit prickly on the tongue, and the oatmeal doesn’t play quite as much of a role in smoothing out the flavor and mouthfeel because of it. The Sam Smith’s was a huge blast of coffee and cream, with a bit of caramel malt sweetness. Even a bit of vanilla seemed to poke through. There was not nearly as much roast character as in the other two, and it was much sweeter in the finish. Although I greatly enjoyed the flavors, I did find myself sort of working to finish the end of the glass. The sweetness did seem to be a bit much when compared to the others, and cut back its drinkability a touch for me. I could sit and enjoy that aroma for weeks, though.

How you should be drinking this: Generally, pint or imperial pint glasses are great for Oatmeal Stouts. The coffee and cream aromas and flavors really come to life once the beer has warmed to about 45 or 50 degrees F. Most Oatmeal Stouts are in the 5% – 5.5% ABV range, so they are fairly hearty beers with bold flavors that can be matched up to many different foods. Hearty meals like beef stew, steaks, large soups, or something with brown gravy (an Oatmeal Stout gravy, perhaps?). Desserts like chocolate cake (with a nice french vanilla ice cream of course), tiramisu, dark fruits like raspberries, cherries, and figs – even an Oatmeal Stout Float would be a great way to enjoy this beer.


What you should be buying: As Oatmeal Stouts are fairly popular today, there are several commercial examples available to try. I’d suggest starting with Sam Smith’s, the one that shot it back into popularity, and try American examples after you get a good sense of the original British example. Luckily, these are often available for purchase in bottle shops as singles, so you can pick up a good mixed six pack of different Oatmeal Stouts and work your way through them all, noting what you do or don’t like. That learning process is most of the fun: as you decipher what your taste buds and senses navigate toward, other knowledgeable beer drinkers can help you by suggesting new beers you may not have heard of based on your tastes.

Related styles: Sweet or Milk Stout, Dry Stout, Foreign Extra Stout, Imperial Stout, and historically, Porters.

This week’s installment of Know Your Styles is being brought to you by William Nordmann of the blog Year of Beer. I’m sure in William’s experiment of trying a new beer everyday of the week he came across a few Saisons last year, so this should be old hat to him. Let’s see what he has to say about Saisons:


Derived from the French word for season, it is traditionally a low-alcohol pale ale brewed in the Wallonia region of Belgium. Today the style has grown from a light everyday drinking beer to a bigger Belgian style beer with 5-7% alcohol and a tendency towards spicy flavors. This style is closely related to the French Biere de Garde, with the Saison being less malty, more spicy and without any of the Biere de Garde’s musty cellar flavor. Saison was considered a dying style until recently, when at the 2006 GABF, the Saison had a 76% growth over two years. This year, a Saison recipe is one of the options for the Brewers Association’s Big Brew Day.

For my sampling I tasted Saint Somewhere Saison Athene, La Biere des Collines saison, and a local example from Augusta Brewing (batch #1).

What you should be seeing: Saison is defined as a pale ale but the color is never light, and rarely clear. The color in all of the samples was a hazy brown or amber with the occasional bit of sediment. This is a traditional Belgian style with bottle conditioning being common.

What you should be smelling: The aroma should be a pleasant blend of fruitiness and spice. The spice should tend more towards pepper than clove and the fruit more citrus than apple. A strong aroma is common in Saisons. The Saison Athene had a great peppery aroma that could be enjoyed for a while.

What you should be tasting: Saisons are known for their spicy flavors with a light malt profile. Belgian yeast, mild fruitiness and even a hint of sourness is also a possible Saison flavor. The spice flavor can come from hops, but the addition of pepper, grains of paradise, coriander, or orange peel is common for the style. The sourness should be light from a sour mash or a little Lactobacillus but nothing strong like a Lambic or a Flanders. In the samples I received, the Saint Somewhere had a great peppery spicy flavor with some hints of yeast and fruitiness. Unfortunately the other two samples had a bland mild malt flavor with few Saison characteristics.

How you should be drinking: Get out you wide mouthed glasses and enjoy the aroma of the beer you are about to drink. Goblet, tulip or even a pint glass will also suffice.