They were barely heard of a decade ago, but sour beers are now thoroughly ensconced in the Scottish drinking scene. Any high street offie worth a damn will have a selection and they’ve even been known to grace the shelves of decent supermarkets and the odd corner shop. Whether we’re talking fruity Berlinerweiss styles, salted gose or Flanders red, the chances are you’ve had a glass or two of one of these deliciously divisive beers.
But the granddaddy of all sour beer styles has to be the venerable gueuze: A bottle fermented blend of old and new lambic beer that has both an aggressive tartness and a champagne like complexity. Of the half dozen or so EU protected Oude Gueuze breweries, the beers of Frank Boon are among the more approachable.
Like all Gueuzes, they are an acquired taste, but although the house style reeks of blue cheese, wet hay and soor plums, it lacks the aggressive “licking a battery, whilst a wasp stings your tongue” hit of the more hardcore gueuzes.
In need of something to distract me from the collapse of western civilisation, I cracked open one of their newest releases: The Vat 109
It has a richer colour than I was expecting: A nice burnished marmaladey orange, topped by a delicate, creamy head. Maybe it picks up a bit of colour from the century-old cognac cask which marks this out from your run of the mill lambic.
I’m normally quite cynical about the use of fancy barrels; often they seem like a way to add value and round off the edges of an otherwise substandard beer. But here it really does add a whole other dimension. Headily aromatic with yeasty notes of cheese, walnuts and roast apples. The palate is full bodied and only mildly sour with a delicate, persistent effervescence. It’s really complex stuff and reminded me of a fancy champagne cocktail made with equal parts scrumpy, brandy and Pol Roger (it’s also a wee bit boozier than most gueuze’s, coming in at just over 8% abv)
Such indulgence doesn’t come cheap, I’m afraid and a 375ml bottle will set you back thirteen quid.