Style: Flanders Oud Bruin
From: Zwevegem, Belgium
Distributer’s Note: “The Cuvee freddy is a blend of the base beer for the kerasus and the alvino. (so just the base beer, so without cherries or grapes added) and the mano negra [stout] . Aged for one year on wine barrels. Blend again before bottling with 1/3 fresh podge stout, just to soften the tannins. OG is difficult to say (because of the blends) but should around 1080. Aroma is full of sour fruits together with coffee, chocolate, tannines, balsamico, wood, etc./ Taste is strange. A mix of sourness with soft tannins, burned chocolat, coffee again, dry malt bitterness, tobacco and meaty taste …. Actually you have to taste it to believe!/ The Alvino is made of a sour base beer. Aged for 4 months on 50 kg fresh red grapes (from my mothers garden). After that aged for 12 months on wine barrels.”
The beer pours out the color of cola, with a fizzling head that disappears the moment it forms, leaves the beer with no head and a black stillness over its top. Carbonation bubbles are constantly peppering the beer’s surface, and in body, the beer is all but opaque. When held to the light, the beer suggests a black ruby coloring, though nothing of the other side of the glass can be discerned, and it is too dark for me to tell its clarity. The beer does leave a nice set of legs on the sides of the glass when splashed against it, which speaks of the beer’s booze. On the nose, the beer is distinctly tart with cherry lacto character. Think cherry, oak aged coke with a light acetic aspect and healthy dose of wet pennies. As it opens up, I do start to detect hints of the stout used for blending, with subtle hints of watered down coffee and chocolate. In all, the beer’s got a strange nose that is at times inviting, and at other times is far too metallic. On the tongue, the beer tastes cherry tart from the start with a healthy pucker. Fruity sweetness blends in as the sip progresses, and plays a balancing second fiddle to the acidity that characterizes this beer, while subtle bitter roast and oak tannin round out the finish and aftertaste, giving the beer some semblance of structure. The finish also has a gentle bite of alcohol hiding under the other tastes, which has a nice balancing aspect to it, and is beautifully masked for the beer’s ABV. The acid of the beer lends more to the acetic side of the spectrum, though there are hints of malic and citric acids as well. In flavor, think tart cherry warheads, mellowing into tannic cherry coke that still manages to be tart. The initial swig does suggest some ferrous sulfide, but that is quickly washed away by the other flavors. There is a hint of horse blanket in the beer, and the haunting ghost of a roasty stout, which may be coming from the fact that I know a stout was blended into this beer, but I really feel like the stout qualities are lurking just below the flavor threshold. I want more of them! As the beer warms, I start to detect earthy, mineral flavors alongside the slight herbal tannin and toasted oak flavors, which fight a losing battle in balancing the beer, though it does better and better as the beer warms. The finish of the beer is resplendent with acetic vinegar, tart cherries, and an herbal, toasted oak, while the aftertaste is the ghost of chocolate covered cherries and a stronger oak tannin. In the mouth, the beer is medium bodied, but with a strange carbonation that blends with the tart bite on the tongue to give the beer a crisp, and slightly biting mouthfeel. The mouth is left puckering, and slightly sticky with a tannic astringency. My mouth can’t decide whether to pour out spittle or not, which is rather odd…? Overall, this is an odd duck. It hides its booze beautifully, and is an interesting, tart sipper. It has some displeasing aspects though. These aspects never fully assert themselves, and the beer stays pleasant to sip, it still has some lurking nasties that take away from the overall enjoyment. I think the lacto character could be stepped back, for starters. I love Alvinne’s lacto character, but I really wanted some of the stout to come through in this beer, and I fear the lacto has drowned that out. It’s a good, tart beer though. Worthy of a try.