RHBC introduces Barrel Aged Beers to Gqeberha

Lagers and pilsners where the beer universe for Generation X South Africans. When I traveled through Europe in the ‘90s I was disgusted by warm English beer, revolted by Irish stouts and Belgian sours where the worst thing that my delicate palate had ever encountered.

However, like Copernicus my view had expanded.  I had discovered that the beer universe does not rotate around a cold lager.  In fact I have since discovered that the beer universe is literally limitless. My Dark Age view on beer progressed into a Renaissance of awaking and then hyper-drived to an unbridled voyage of discovery.

South African’s remain fairly conservative when it comes to the frothy beverage. So for the exploratory micro brewers anything out of the ordinary may not be profitable.  In fact a brewer has to be very passionate about their craft to risk producing something unusual, something that a serf of the suburbs may consider burning at the stake.

One such brewer is Niall Cook of Richmond Hill Brewing Company (RHBC) and it is his latest brew that may have traditionalists running around with flaming torches and pitch forks.

In Nialls own words, “We have to find an accessible way to introduce Gqeberha to Barrel Aged Sours.  You can get really sour beers out there and I don’t think PE is ready for that.  We have gone for something that is not as sour but it still has a lovely twang to it.”

What is a Beer Sour?

Sour beer, also known as Sours or Barrel Aged Sours is intentionally acidic, tart, or sour. Unlike traditional beer which carefully controls the yeasts and bacteria in the brewing process, sours are created by allowing wild yeast strains or bacteria into the brew usually through storing the beer in wooden barrels.

Another method for achieving a tart flavor is by adding fruit, which directly contributes organic acids such as citric acid.

Sours originated in the Belgian, Dutch and German border areas and has recently gained great popularity in the USA where American Wild Ale style beer has really taken off..

RHBC’s Barrel Ageing Program

In 2020 RHBC bought six 2016 Shiraz barrels that had been retired. They then added their Twin Fin Pilsner to the barrels to allow the natural microbes in the barrel to sour the beer. To give a bit more tart,  raspberry or blueberries where added to the barrels too. 

After six months of fermentation with wild yeasts and bacteria, RHBC have their first Barrel Aged Sours.

Niall says, “The result is a sour with clean woody notes, shiraz character as well as fresh fruit aromas and flavours.”

“We currently have another sour in production, this time made from a stout and mixed with red grapes and raspberries,” adds Niall.

Last weekend I sampled both the raspberry and the blueberry sours.  My gastronomic knowledge and experience has expanded somewhat since the ‘90s and I thus had an open mind when taking my first mouthful.

Fresh and zesty, extremely refreshing and more tart than sour are what my tasting notes say.  I found the RHBC sours to be very similar to homemade cider but a little more complex.  Take a big mouthful and engulf your taste buds and all the character that Niall describes are there.

What I also found is that the RHBC Sours are very easy drinking -low on alcohol, less heavy than its pilsner foundation and simply enjoyable.

@ Niall – no need to fear a burning at the stake. You won’t have a problem introducing these sours to PE, in fact I think you may need to acquire more barrels.

Order the RHBC Barrel Aging Sour Beers by clicking here.

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