How good is returning from the summer break? Readjusting the sleep cycle, trudging around with a couple extra pot roasts in the mid section, and the inevitably insipid banalities from coworkers; “so where do you go on holidays”? I didn’t do anywhere, Melanie, alright!? We stayed in Brisbane and built a tent around the fridge, you southern France sojourning ass.
The closest we got to a holiday was a taste of Northern Belgium, with our first ever Flanders Red. A style that takes time, finesse and skill. And knowing we can achieve zero of those facets, we modernised it a bit. It’s a quick(ish), sour cherry loaded, bourbon barrel bastardised Flanders.
Flanderserses are a mixed culture sour beer, made with crystal malts and neutral oak. Similar to their Lambic cousins, Flanders rely heavily on a saccharomyces prevalent primary fermentation, followed by brettanomyces and lactobacillus activity. Where Flanders are unique, is the action of acetobacter. Acetobacter produces, amongst other things, acetic acid, that very distinct vinegar flavour. And while it would be considered an infection in lambics, acetobacter is a key characteristic of Flanders beers. So long barrel aging in neutral oak is a key aspect of Flanders, as it allows micro-oxidation and the promotion of just the right amount of acetobacter.
Adding fruit to Flanders is definitely not common, although the base beer has inherent plum, raspberry and cherry flavours from the process. Some amazing Flanders beers do add fruits though, and I was very inspired by some of these products.
About half way through 2023 I contacted a few farms, seeking sour cherries. These varieties only fruit one week per year, so can be hard to organise. Somewhat disheartened by a lack of response, I decided to make the beer anyway, possibly leaving it un-fruited. In December one farm did respond that hey had cherries ready that week. Lucky for me, our 4 month old Flanders style beer in barrels at the time was tasting perfect to receive some fruit.
Being in Brisbane, with no temperature control, our barrel program has a habit of being quicker than its northern hemisphere heroes.
So thankfully to those who responded, we destemmed 200kg of sour cherries in 9 straight hours, and whacked them in stainless. A 7 day carbonic maceration had the cherries in perfect condition to receive the beer. And that’s where we are at. Our Flanders tastes like sour cherry juice at the moment, and has a few more months until it’ll be ready. But boy what a holiday we had.