IT’S STILL SURPRISING how many new breweries are swiftly emerging with capable—indeed exceptional—barrel-aging and sour programs. The tradition of spontaneous fermentation that took centuries to develop, the creaking fouders that took decades to mature, and brewers with generations of knowledge handed down in the Pajottenland ‘fertile crescent’ are still the world leaders in all things wild. But in a fraction of that time such outfits as The Bruery, launched only in 2008, have established themselves as modern maestros of this ancient style.
One of the Orange County outfit’s most celebrated beers is Oude Tart, a largely faithful rendition of a West Flanders Red Ale that has medaled gold numerous times at the Great American Beer Festival and World Cup. (Despite its name, Oude Tart is not an Oud Bruin.) It is indeed a triumph, pouring a translucent beet red, a bit hazy, with a light tan head and throwing off a true panoply of aromas: black cherry (elderberries?), barnyard Brett, a bit of molasses, winy tannins, and a sour streak, all underpinned by a warm blanket of rum, oak, and leather that is as soothing as the overtones are titillating. The flavor is similarly complex, at once dense and dry, dry, dry, with a slight metallic pat, a whiff of its 7.5% ABV, and an endless finish. Prime.
It may be some time yet before the West Coast is known as much for its Brettanomyces strains as for Yakima Valley hops. But the seeds of this revolution sown in decades past by Russian River and Cascade Brewing are now bearing sour fruit, and The Bruery leads the way.
Served: On Tap (Jake Melnick’s, Chicago)