Flanders reds and browns are a semi-wild collective of malt-forward and sour beers, often gone through various secondary ferments on different fruits or microorganisms. Reds are generally characterised by acetic acid, while browns have more of a fruity ester profile.
The complexity of reds is really what sucks me in. A combination of caramel malt, lactic and acetic acid, sour cherries (or raspberries), with a dry oak finish. Ooft. They are glorious in all elements.
Traditionally, a primary ferment is undertaken in stainless steel with a brewing. yeast. The beer is then transferred to soft, used, neutral oak and re-fermented with the Brettanomyces, Acetobacter, Peddiococcus and Lactobacillus that would be in the oak from previous batches. After 6-12 months the beer is then racked onto another ferment with cherries or raspberries. Often old, very sour beer is blended with young, sweeter beer and a final conditioning in package for carbonation.
And so yeah, that’s what we are looking at. A malty red, fermented in stainless with Notto was transferred into fourth fill bourbon barrels and inoculated with one of our house mixed cultures. This culture was devised 7-8 years ago with Gavin Croft when we were early days at Newstead. It has made some excellent beers, like Zoo8 and Zoo10 that have a beautifully balanced acetic character.
The trick is to ferment cool and with very minimal oxygen, constantly keeping the Acetobacter in check. If that acetic acid runs too far, the resultant vinegar flavour becomes overpowering. So while Brisbane freezes at 15oC, it is perfect temperature for these beers.
In January next year we will also be looking to re-ferment some of this beer on fresh Morello cherries, which are only available one week in the year. But that sounds like a BGW for another time.