Reference and review books about beer have never interested me. Why would I want to read someone else's opinions about beers, most of which I'll never get to drink? That used to be my position on beer blogs too, back before I realised that there was a whole interactive side to blogging which makes it much more than a solitary activity. And I don't have to spend my beer money on blogs. But I still have no intention of building up a library of beer reference books -- that's knowledge I'd prefer to pick up first hand.
However, a well-meaning family member bought me a copy of Roger Protz's 300 Beers To Try Before You Die for Christmas. There was a time when I feared that if I ever owned this book I'd be consumed by trying to tick as many of the entries as I could, but I'm not bothered now. I haven't even counted how many of the 300 I've tasted. I have had a damn good flick through it though. One of the many I've never had jumped out at me as an odd inclusion: Liefmans Oud Bruin.
Sure, Liefmans are a very well respected Belgian brewery (now owned by Duvel Mortgaat), but oud bruin? The nearly-non-alcoholic Dutch beer, typically packed with saccharine and which always seems to come with a confused look and an explanation of what it is every time I ask a Dutch waitress to bring me one -- something I do quite often as I really rather like it, especially Heineken's. How could an oud bruin, no matter who brewed it, be a classic? This had been troubling me through January, and when I saw a bottle on sale in Beer Mania I leapt on it.
'Course, if I'd paid attention to the details given by Roger it would have all started making sense a bit sooner. Instead of the typical sub-3% ABV, Liefmans Oud Bruin is a whopping 5%: rocket fuel! It pours thinner and much fizzier than any other oud bruin, and the first taste confirmed what I'd thought: it's not really oud bruin at all. Daft Belgians.
On top of the light and fizzy body there's a distinct tangy -- almost vinegary -- sourness strongly reminiscent of Flemish red ales like Rodenbach. At the back there's an earthy, almost brett-like, character which is barely discernable.
I feel a bit guilty now for scoffing at Nørrebro's HP-sauce-like Oud Bruin, because it's quite plainly (now) an attempt to emulate this, the pair seemingly representative of a sub-genre of oud bruin I was hitherto unaware of. Time I stopped being surprised when I encounter them. Though my preference is still for the low-strength treacly sugar-bombs, weirdo that I am. But hey, it's not like I'm writing a book.