There comes a time in the life of a craft beer drinker when nothing but a sour beer will do. When that happens, we are fortunate in West Virginia to have an increasing number of exceptional sour beers to choose from.
For one, Artisanal Imports, Inc. has begun sending an impressive group of three sours to the state—all based on the classic Cuvée Des Jacobin Flemish Sour Red Ale. Together they provide a colorful taste palette from which to choose. One or more of them will please just about anybody’s hankering for a nicely tart beer.
Omer Vander Ghinste Brewery, which makes the three beers, is located in West Flanders, Belgium, just a few miles from the French border. The family of the brewery owners have been making beer commercially there for over 120 years. Having that kind of heritage is one of the really great things about these beers.
Product descriptions and ratings
To help you select the best sour for you, the Brilliant Stream geek squad conducted its own little tasting panel with the three beers. Our ratings appears along with product descriptions, tasting notes, and suggested food pairings. A rating higher than 50 out of 100 is an above-average beer.
This Flemish Ale is an unblended, soured foeder beer. Dark reddish in color, the ale is spontaneously fermented and aged in large oak foeders for at least 18 months. Bottled at 5.5% A.B.V. , it tries to nicely balance the malt and acidic sharpness.
The Brilliant Stream tasting panel found the Cuvée to be quite tart, though not harshly sour. Mostly dry with only a touch of residual sugars. It has a complex, aged flavor with tart cherries, other dried fruit, and malt coming through. Not at all barnyard or vinegary. Quite mellow for an foeder-aged beer. It had a lingering sour aftertaste that one panelist did not enjoy.
Rating: 76.8 out of 100. Score Range: 60 to 90
Food pairing: pork roast, blue cheese, ham with cucumbers
The brewery calls their Oud Bruin a mixed-fermentation classic. The beer is a blend of 35% Cuvée des Jacobins and 65% freshly made dark Belgian ale, which creates a moderately tart yet malty, mostly dry example of what is known locally as “Red-Brown” to differentiate it from sweeter Oud Bruin beers made in other parts of Belgium and Holland.
The tasting panel found a nicely tart flavor burst up front that mellows quickly. Kilned malt and stone fruit then come through in the flavor. Quite dry. Moderate body. Gentle sour finish. Easy drinking.
Rating: 77.3 out of 100. Score Range: 60 to 84
Food pairing: soft mild cheese and red fruit, frites, salad green topped with grapefruit sections, big juicy hamburger
This beer is a mixed fermentation blend of Cuvée des Jacobins and a fresh wheat ale blended with 25% sour cherry juice. The brewery designed it to be a well-balanced beer with a slightly sweet flavor.
The Brilliant Stream tasting panel found this beer had a bright cherry aroma and a tart cherry pastry-like flavor. Excellent fruit-forward sweet-sour balance. A touch of almond. Smooth. Easy drinking.
Rating: 81.5 out of 100. Score Range: 70 to 90
Food pairing: spinach salad, bacon cheeseburger, brownies, chocolate cake and ice cream, grilled peaches with maple syrup
The three Omer Vander Ghinste beers should be found in 330 ml bottles at better craft beer retailers across West Virginia. For kegs, 1/6 barrels are available to draft accounts.
The BrilliantStream beer geeks participating in the tasting panel were Matt Bradley, Josh Nibert, David Mincer, Rob Absten, David Keatley, and Charles Bockway. All are Charleston, WV, area craft beer enthusiasts.
About Omer Vander Ghinste Brewery
The roots of the brewery date back to May 1892. The brewery has been continuously in family hands from that time to the present. The family uses traditional methods to make its beer, such as allowing the beer fresh from the brew kettle to sit overnight in a large shallow metal vessel called a coolship and then fermenting and aging beer in large oaken barrel-tanks called foeders.
The Omer Vander Ghinste Brewery is one of the most progressive breweries in the southwest Flemish region of Belgium and prides itself on striking a balance between modern technology and traditional craftsmanship.
Learn more about Omer Vander Ghinste beers at the company website.