The ever increasing popularity of `craft beers´ owes a lot to the writer, journalist and beer lover Michael Jackson, well known as the Beer Hunter. Sadly, he died at the age of 65 in 2007 but his knowledge and appreciation of beer remains with us; worldwide his books have sold over three millionen copies and have been translated into 18 different languages. A special homage to him is the Petrus Aged Pale from De Brabandere; without his involvement the beer would probably not be available.
The story goes back to the mid 1990’s when Jackson first visited the West Flanders Bavik Brewery (at the end of 2013 the name was changed to that of the family, to celebrate 120 years of brewing), remowned for its Oud Bruin. He wanted to taste the beer used as a base direct from the foeder (the large wooden wine aging vats used to age sour beer). Ignace de Brabandere reluctantly conceded and also allowed him to taste the beer on a further two occasions; Ignace considered it far too sour to stand up on its own.
Jackson, however, thought the beer was fantastic. He wanted to have some of it for the beer clubs he’d established in England and America. His request was turned down but he persisted; Ignace tried to discourage him by imposing a massive limit of 75 hl. That didn’t stop Jackson, however, who purchased the beer under the condition that he could name it and the rest is history. The beer proved to be so popular the the brewery finally brought it on the market in 2001.
Petrus Aged Pale is 100% Foeder beer, Oud Bruin, on the other hand contains just one third, the rest being young beer. The beer is aged in the vat for two and a half years during which time the wild yeast and bacteria attack it to provide the unique sour taste. Hygiene is of particular importance to ensure that no unwanted microorganisms gain a foothold in the vat rooms. Master Brewer Yves de Brabandere describes the process as being a bit like sleeping every day with someone who has the flu.
Virtually all base foeder sour beers are reddish brown or brown, Petrus Aged Pale, as the name suggests is an exception; it has a clear medium golden colour topped off by a medium white head. The aroma gives it away as something other than just a pale ale; a distinctive farmyard/horsebox aroma with a slight but distinct malt backing and a sourish hint of berries.
No hiding the mouth puckering tartness with the taste but it quickly starts to fall into place alongside the more pungent and bitter extracts. Dry wood from the aging comes next, slowly mellowing down into oak vanilla and mild tobacco. A little malt sweetness holds both the dry and sour elements in check. The fruit berries have to wait on the sideline for a while but become increasingly noticeable.
Together with the 7.3% alc. vol. a very interesting and enjoyable taste combination, which continues well into the finish. If you’ve already got into Oud Bruin you can’t fail to enjoy this excellent beer.