Central City Brewing Barrel Aged Sour Brown Ale Release Event
Central City Brewing’s new barrel aged sour brown ale makes sour lovers happy and proves accessible for the uninitiated.
On Thursday January 21st, Central City Brewing hosted a launch event for their new Sour Brown Ale at their Red Racer Restaurant on Beatty Street in downtown Vancouver.
Central City’s beer is distinct among most of the sours we’ve had coming out of Vancouver breweries in 2015. Unlike many of these ‘kettle sours’, Brewmaster Gary Lohin opted for the Belgian method, which instead allows the beer to sour as it ages through the addition of bacteria. There are few breweries in Vancouver that have the means or the time to make a sour beer such as this, as it needs to age significantly – in the case of Central City’s brown that aging process was 2 years.
The brown ale was aged in Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels for 20 months, and then finished in French oak foeders – large oak barrels that allowing the beer to undergo secondary fermentation.
It was notable that the brewery did not bottle all of the beer produced and instead kept some in reserve. The plan is to later add raspberries to a portion and create a Framboise, to add cherries to another portion and create a Kriek, and finally to use the remainder as a ‘starter’ for future batches.
While I’m definitely excited to taste the Kriek in particular, I must say that I’m intrigued about the use of an existing sour beer as the base for later batches. This may be commonplace at other breweries where they produce sours – and indeed it’s already common for breweries to reuse yeast – but it’s fascinating to me as someone who is still learning about beer and also loves to make bread of the similarity between this sour-beer ‘starter’ and a sourdough starter. A dough starter is something that is alive and needs to be nurtured and fed. Keeping the starter healthy means you continue to produce great bread, and presumably the same goes for the beers that will be produced in the future at Central City.
The beer is not nearly as tart as you would expect, all that time in oak had a mellowing effect on the final product. It was served a little too cool for my liking and at that temperature the sourness of the beer is definitely more prominent. As I allowed the beer to warm up somewhat, the sourness softened to reveal some of the more complex flavours from the aging process. There were wine notes, reminiscent of grape must, as well as oak from the barrels themselves. Far from being sweet, however; the finish most definitely had a distinct note of bitter hops. The alcohol content comes in at 9.2% and nowhere in the tasting experience did I notice any booziness as it was well disguised within a robust but accessible beer.
Take a look at your local private liquor store for a bottle or two of this first release of the Central City Sour Brown Ale. This one won’t be around for long. Whether you’re a fan of sours, or just curious, this is a great one to get your hands on.