The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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Page 18 of 124

18 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 Beer(d) Science isn't just an excuse for an '80s movie pun. Each issue of The SOMM Journal will cover a different style of beer and related beer terminology to help our somms expand their beer knowledge. I RECENTLY GOT to spend a little time in Austin, Texas. Despite my enthusiasm, and also due to the fact that it was closed the two days I was there, I was unable to visit Jester King Brewery. I certainly didn't leave the city thirsty, but I'm now back in Los Angeles and still have yet to try one of the brewer's beloved sours. This got me thinking though about sour beers and acidic fermentation in general, not to mention one of my favorite beers within this genre: Duchesse de Bourgogne. (Settle down—I very much like Roden - bach, too!) Usually the wild yeasts and bacteria that cause acidic fermentation are bad things, but Belgian lambics, gueuze, and other sour beers embrace these spoilage organisms with open arms—or perhaps more appropriately, open fermentation vessels. There are many, but the organisms primarily responsible are Brettanomyces yeast, pediococcus, lactobacillus, acetobacter, and enterobacter. Several strains of each can be found in wood barrels, in the air, and who knows where else. I could develop a whole series on each of these rascally bacterium, and maybe I will, but for now let's focus on acetic fermentation (as opposed to the lactic fermentation that happens when lactoba - cillus and pediococcus come to crash the party). Acetobacter Acetobacter oxidizes ethanol into acetic acid; in other words, it turns alcohol into vinegar. In most beers, it's considered a harsh off-flavor that's usually a result of bad sanitation practices in a draft system or brewery. You can have too much of it even in sour beers: In high quantities, it can end up tasting like astringent pickle juice. As mentioned above, acetobacter is key to the acidic, tar t character in lambic, gueuze, and Flan - ders red/brown beer styles. It's par ticularly common in oak-aged beers, as the wood permits some oxygen exchange. The Burgundy of Belgium Flanders red ale—often referred to as the Burgundy of Belgium due to its dry, wine-like finish—is a sour-ale style born in the West Flanders province. These complex, tart beers are typically aged for roughly two years in oak harboring acetobacter (among other naughty goodies like Brettanomyces), which sours the beer. After the ale has matured, it's then blended with younger, fresher beer to achieve the desired level of acidity, which can range from mild to the sort of high-acid and even tannic finish you'd find in a red wine. For this reason, Flanders reds possess no hop flavor ; at most, they have a very restrained hop character, as brewers instead rely on the acid to balance the plum and dark-fruit flavors in the beer. The oak will often impart a bit of vanilla character, as well, which can give it a sort of tart black-cherry- cream-soda essence. Alcohol levels range from 4.6–6.5%. ACETOBACTER AND FLANDERS RED ALE by Jessie Birschbach Beers Gone Wild Get Refined:

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