Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Petrus Aged Pale: A modern classic in an ancient style

By William Brand
Thursday, January 8th, 2009 at 12:22 pm in Uncategorized.

WILLIAM BRAND: WHAT’S ON TAP

A sour ‘eau de barnyard,’ anyone?

Sour beers were a traditional drink in the Lowlands from the Middle Ages until the end of the industrial era, when the style died, drowned in a wave of Coca-Cola and fizzy lagers.

THERE WASN’T EVEN ELBOW ROOM the other night at The Trappist Belgian & Specialty Beer Bar in downtown Oakland. When I finally made it to the bar in this long, narrow, very Belgian-looking pub, I realized that – in a nod to a blue-collar beer-drinking tradition that’s rapidly dying, even in Belgium – I had to order a sour beer.

These are beers steeped in history: ales long-aged in ancient oak barrels, sometimes served straight — dry and mouth-puckeringly sour, more often blended with fresh, young beer for a tantalizing sweet-sour taste. They were a traditional drink in the Lowlands from the Middle Ages until the Industrial Revolution died in a wave of Coca-Cola and fizzy hog-wallow lagers.

Trappist proprietors Chuck Stilphen and Aaron Porter have an excellent selection of these increasingly rare brown ales from Flanders – the provinces between Antwerp and the North Sea. I chose a bottle of Petrus Aged Pale (****). It’s a 7.3 percent ale, made by Bavik, a large, family-owned brewery.  Global Beer Network, the importer, says it’s not blended. What you get in the bottle is a pale barley-malt beer, aged two years in large oak casks first used for white wine and Calvados, the apple brandy.

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