Collaboration beers are all the rage these days: Avery and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (a blend of beers both named “Salvation”), the Brooklyner-Schneider and Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisses (the latter of which I’ve rated), the new fruity and malty Van Twee from the minds of De Proef and Bell’s, as well as Flying Dog’s Collaborator Doppelbock, product of the Open Source Beer Project. I’m sure I’m missing scores of unique ones.
The reason I mention this is that tonight the first beer I am trying is a collaboration brew from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, Illinois, and the Urthel Brewery in Ruiselede, Belgium. Named Moaten (after the Flemish word for “friends”), this oak aged sour is brewed in the style of a west Flanders red.
The Moaten pours a lightly hazy rust color with some creamy off-white head. The nose is light and somewhat flat. A bit of caramel malt is evident but a dry, somewhat metallic character intervenes. I can detect hints of fruit, perhaps raspberries and oranges.
The taste is also flat but not as much so, with a flavor really representative of an American amber ale. Malt character is the strongest, toast and bread with some caramel. Some fruit is present, and some oak. Just the slightest hint of an acetic tart. Slightly cloying.
Not a bad beer, just not at all what the label tells me it will be. Anyway I had high hopes but low expectations for this one: both breweries are generally great but neither brews sours regularly.
Moaten is a beer that talks big but doesn’t quite deliver. Next up is a beer that makes no claims to style other than “Swiss ale de garde … aged in oak barrels”. However just one whiff and you know it’s a Flanders-style red.
One of the best non-Belgian sours I know of, the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is brewed by Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Saignelégier, Switzerland. This beer (named after the late brewery cat) is aged in wooden barrels that formerly held one of several wine varietals as well as a few used to age grappa, so the complexity should come naturally. My bottle is a vintage 2007.
A bit of creamy tan head sits atop the turbid, mahogany colored Bon-Chien. Not a lot of head but what is there lasts and leaves an artistic lacing. A rich aroma wafts out: fruit, wood, malt, funk, and sour. Cherries, raisins, and blackberries with a vanilla oak character. A light caramel malt sweetness balances an acidic, cider vinegar nose. Just a bit of sweat adds a funky interest. Great sweet and sour combination.
A dense and difficult flavor. This is a high compliment: the various tastes do not fight for attention, but they do alternately subdue and enhance each other. This beer requires contemplation. At first a sweet maltiness is paired with a significant bitterness. The bitterness is revealed to be an alcohol warming. The maltiness fades and is replaced by a cidery tart. The spicy and sour flavors bring out a strong fruitiness: red apples, cherries, and prunes and a hint of brandy and mulling spices. Some balsamic vinegar rounds out the sour taste. A lively carbonation, healthy tart, and restrained but definitive alcohol flavor.
A tour de force.
Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien
Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten
P.S. Thank you Peggy Sue for knocking half my glass of the Bon-Chien all over the desk and keyboard. I literally tried lapping it up before I realized it wasn’t any good anymore. I had to get a new keyboard in the middle of writing my post. Seriously!