May 5, 2012

Van Diemen Brewing - Hedgerow Autumn Ale

It's so exciting to be able to buy a sour beer that's been brewed in Tasmania! Van Diemen's 2012 Hedgerow Autumn Ale has hit the shelves. The label says that it's aged for 12 weeks on rosehips, hawthorn and sloe berries, partially barrel aged.

Aroma: Berries, some sweetness, strawberry, and definitely a sour edge. It reminds me a bit of the aroma of strawberries mixed with balsamic vinegar.

Appearance: I really love the appearance of this one. It's burnt red in colour with a light haze. Attractive. It pours with a two finger head that settles to a dense 1cm of foam, leaving sheets rather than lacing down the glass.

Flavour: Given the label and the aroma I was looking for sourness but what I found was only a very light sourness. The flavour is dominated by prominent oak and smokey, burnt notes. There's some delicate berry notes underneath that tease but it seems like the malt has been largely subdued by the oak and tannins. It just feels like it's missing a big part of what's meant to be there. I want more berries! Hmmm... perhaps currants in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: The beer dries on the palate which with the oak/char leaves an astringent taste and feel in the mouth. It has medium carbonation. I thought the beer as a whole might get better as it warmed up but though the berries came out more with a little warmth, the beer felt even more thin.
I really need to get more, better beer glasses

Overall: What kills this beer is that as it beer dries on the palate it emphasises the tannins and makes it astringent. I want this beer to be amazing but it doesn't take me there.

My hunch is that it's ended up with a foot in two camps by not wanting to be too risky. The problem is that the char/oak that comes from the barrel ageing don't combine well with the dry finish. I think it needs to be either more sweet or more sour. The sweetness (just a little) would give it enough body and flavour to counter the oak, perhaps more sour might achieve a similar effect, at least it would give something else to focus on.

I'm a bit disappointed but hopeful that this will just be the first of many Tassie produced sour beers. Well done Van Dieman Brewing for daring to do it. I think I'll pick up another one and let it age for a while to see if it evens out over time.

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