Oerbier Special Reserva-Inspired… Originally

Oerbier Special Reserva-Inspired… Originally
De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva is a personal favorite. Strong, malty, funky, vinous, and each vintage is a bit different. I’m not usually a fan of vertical tastings, especially for precisely-controlled beers (I don’t get much out of comparing ten vintages of Bigfoot!), but splitting bottles from all eight releases of Oerbier Special Reserva was a fun way to spend an evening a with friends!I wanted to have my own lower-alcohol inspired-by stockpile of something…

De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva is a personal favorite. Strong, malty, funky, vinous, and each vintage is a bit different. I’m not usually a fan of vertical tastings, especially for precisely-controlled beers (I don’t get much out of comparing ten vintages of Bigfoot!), but splitting bottles from all eight releases of Oerbier Special Reserva was a fun way to spend an evening a with friends!

Microbes isolated from De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva.I wanted to have my own lower-alcohol inspired-by stockpile of something similar. Without much to go on I sent a “Brewed In 2010” bottle to Nick at The Yeast Bay so he could revive De Dolle’s house-Brett. Normally I’d just pitch dregs, but I didn’t have much hope given the alcohol and age. I then built-up Wyeast’s supposed isolate of De Dolle’s brewer’s yeast (3942-PC), soaked oak cubes in Port, and ordered ingredients for a rich-malty base beer (my recipe) – that recipe was a draft for what eventually became Modern Times Empty Hats.

That’s about when things started going wrong:

The 5 L flask filled with Saccharomyces fell off the stir-plate and shattered.
    Luckily I had T-58 on hand (a cache of dry yeast is invaluable).

The two isolates Nick pulled from the old/strong beer didn’t seem to do anything over a year.
    Empty Hats dregs to the rescue (which seemed appropriate).

Even with dregs the beer wasn’t developing interesting aromatics.
    Tart cherry juice concentrate thanks to King Orchards.

Bad beer happens. If you’ve never brewed an off batch, either you have and can’t taste it or you’re the world’s best and most boring brewer! One of the keys to brewing sour beer is learning which bad beers are worth trying to save, and which should be dumped. I’ve had a few of both. If a beer is OK the easy solution is to add fruit or hops for intrigue. If the beer just isn’t coming along, aging with additional microbes is my usual route. If you detect off-fermentation character (e.g., nail polish, vinegar) there isn’t much hope other than blending.

Three-and-a-half years later a train-wreck has become something weird and interesting! Glad to be a homebrewer with some extra storage space and no deadline. If you want to hear more about the batch, listen to my interview with Drew Beechum on Brew Files episode #3.

Oerbier-Inspired

Smell – Rich savory cherry (think venison roasted with cherries an spices). Salivary-inducing acidic aroma. Hint of praline. Clean coconut-ethanol high-note as it warms. Subtle earthy Brett.

Appearance – Clear brown with ruby-amber highlights. Thin off-white head, decent retention for a sour beer (returns on a swirl after it falls).

Taste – Toastiness of the malt is still there with mushroom-earthiness, and the dried cherries. Spice from the oak. Bare butterscotch diacetyl (or more likely oxidized caramel malt?). No sign of the alcohol, but at “only” 8.5% that isn’t too surprising. Port-like with acidity in place of sugary sweetness.

Mouthfeel – Medium-low carbonation, nice for a big/dark/sour beer. Pretty good mouthfeel thanks to rather moderate attenuation (FG 1.011).

Drinkability & Notes – A sipper, but that isn’t surprising giving the intensity and variety of flavors. Big, bold, sharp, weird character from malt, microbes, wood, and fruit that mostly work together.

Changes for Next Time – Impossible to replicate this one, but it turned out well despite all the twists and turns. 16 oz of sour cherry concentrate did well in a complex beer that I didn’t want to dilute.  I finally gave Nick a bottle of this batch as a thanks when I visited him in February.

Nick giving me a tour of his home-lab.


Source: The Mad Fermentationist

Oerbier Special Reserva-Inspired… Originally

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