Beer - The Unique Oud Bruin - Part 3
Brewers of Oud Bruin often add fruits, such as cherries and raspberries, to a portion of their beer during the secondary fermentation period. The fruit compliments the acidity of these beers and contributes a host of new flavor and aroma characteristics. Oud Bruin is usually bottled, typically in champagne bottles fitted with corks and wires. Draft versions are only available near the breweries. Most brewers allow the beer to age in the bottle for a few months prior to release.
The best-known example of the style is Liefmans Goudenband. The Liefmans Brewery of Oudenaarde, Belgium has been in existence since at least 1679. Liefmans uses Pilsner, Munich, and Vienna malts for the bulk of the grist. Goldings hops are used for bittering, with a small amount of Saaz and Tettnang added as aroma hops. The proprietary yeast strain has been cultured in the brewery for many years, but it is said to have originated from the Rodenbach brewery of west Flanders. Rodenbach is the brewer of the best-known example of Belgian red ale, a style very similar to Oud Bruin.
Goudenband is aged for six to eight months before it is blended with a younger beer. Once the beer is bottled, it is matured in the cellar for an additional three months. Each year, Liefmans adds cherries or raspberries to a portion of their Goudenband during the secondary fermentation period. The resultant beers are sold as Liefmans Kriekbier and Liefmans Frambozenbier. The brewery also produces a lower gravity, basic Oud Bruin.
At least two other Oudenaarde breweries produce Oud Bruins. Felix and Special Oudenaarde are brewed by the Clarysse Brewery. A very small brewery by the name of Cnudde produces a more subtle version. This brewery, which operates irregularly, also produces a cherry version. The Roman Brewery, in the nearby village of Mater, brews an intensely flavored Dobbelen Bruinen as well as the less sweet Oudenaardes. Roman is a large brewery which dates back to 1545.
Although Oudenaarde and the surrounding area are considered the center of Oud Bruin brewing, producers do exist outside the region. One source states that over 30 different brands of Oud Bruin are produced in Belgium. Other notable producers include Crombe of Zottegem, Het Anker of Mechelen, and Van Den Bossche of St. Lievens-Esse.
Crombe , says Michael Jackson, "is a typical example of a Belgian small brewery" in which a small brewery, cafe, and family home are situated on the same lot. This brewery, which operates infrequently today, dates to 1798. Crombe produces a rather tart Oud Bruin and a cherry, Oud Kriekenbier. Het Anker brews a brown they call Bruynen as well as the stronger, more complex Gouden Carolus.
Although some say Oud Bruin and the Belgian red ale of West Flanders are the same style, others believe these beers are different enough to be classified as separate styles. West Flanders brewers have traditionally used a mix of malts that result in a red colored beer. Also, they age their beer in tall vertical wooden tuns as opposed to casks. This results in a distinctly different flavor profile than that of the browns. Also, unlike most Oud Bruins, the red ales are typically stabilized by pasteurization. Rodenbach is the classic example of Belgian red ale.