You might get the impression that we, the beer gurus of ACB, understand all there is to know about beer, yet we’re still learning, just like you. It’s this thirst for knowledge that drives us to dig deeper into the stories behind the beer we drink, thus protecting you from the embarrassment of not knowing what exactly it is you’ve decided to pour in your mouth.
So welcome to the latest in our ongoing series (drum roll please…) “What the Hell Is An Oud Bruin?”
Otherwise known as a Flanders Brown, the name Oud Bruin means “old brown,” further emphasizing any concern you might have about downing old beer. Seriously though, this is one of those styles unlike any other which has been cherished over the centuries for it’s unique sour qualities and colorful variety. Originating in the 1600’s and coming from the Eastern side of the Flemish region of Belgium (it’s sister, the Flanders Red from the West), it’s defined by a visibly browner color due to malting, often (but not always) warm aged in steel fermenters versus oak barrels and thus requiring additions of bacteria.
While a number of Oud Bruins are barrel aged, it appears that anytime bacteria is added, instead of left solely to the barrel aging process, brewers will often define it as a brown. This gives the brewer more control over the sour or funky attributes that result, making it an ideal one to blend or use as a base for fruit additions (lambics).
The style’s ABV ranges wildly from 4% to 11% ABV, with the American versions trending to the higher end of the spectrum and more traditional Belgian releases falling between 4% and 8%. Bittering is decidedly low, with the sour quality an able substitute for any hop presence, which is minimal (15-30 IBU). Flavors can vary widely as well, with esters commonly exhibiting dark fruit (raisins, figs, dates, dark cherries, prunes) and malts contributing caramel, toffee, orange, molasses or chocolate. Lactobacillus and pediococcus bacteria are often used as souring agents.
Oud Bruins We Like And You Should Try:
New Belgium Brewing, Lips of Faith – La Folie (Fort Collins, CO) – The mostly widely available version of the style available in the US, New Belgium’s brown beauty is aged in oak foeders. A blend of their barreled “Oscar” sours, it serves as a base for a number of their other sour experiments. One of the first mass-distributed American sours, it’s also won GABF Gold 3 times. 7% ABV
Perennial Artisan Ales, La Boheim (St. Louis, MO) – While often classified as a Brown sour, this small batched brew is closer to a cherry Kriek as it’s aged two years in wine barrels with tart Michigan cherries. While it is a limited release, if you can get your hands on it, it’s not to be missed. 6% ABV.
Deschutes Brewing, The Dissident (Bend, OR) – You’ll be hard pressed to find a better example of an American Oud Bruin anywhere. It is the largest we know of (10.7% ABV) as it’s brewed with Belgian Candi Sugar, aged on Montmorency cherries, aged 18 months in oak wine barrels and released every two years. You might still find one from this year’s release…
Yet another amazing Belgian style that American brewers have capitalized on and made their own. We love this style because of the wide variety of beautiful permutations the style can inhabit. From lighter, boozier fare to more mellow, sticky sweet classic versions, sour lovers everywhere know that this is a style that can’t be missed.