On March 19, Blue Palms Brewhouse hosted a Flemish Sour Blending Seminar with Brouwerij Bockor brewmaster Sam Quartier. He was in town from Belgium to educate attendees about brewing and blending West Flemish sour beer. This unique tasting was a testament to the strength of the L.A. beer scene, since so few cities could even support an event so specialized.
Brouwerij Bockor has been based in the small northwest Belgian town of Bellegem since 1892, when Remi Vander Ghinste bought a pre-existing brewery. They currently produce 48,000 barrels per year, including sours, which were going out of style in Belgium before markets like the U.S. and Japan started to spur new growth.
Quartier led a slideshow presentation for the assembled masses, discussing the history of the brewery and explaining the process behind their sours. Hot wort is added to coolship at night, and the liquid is cooled to 77 degrees after 20 hours. At that point, the naturally inoculated wort is transferred to French oak barrels for fermentation.
Blue Palms poured five samples of new, aged and Lambic blends. We started with a cloudy yellow “young” beer that Bockor uses as their base for blending and krieks. Since the 100% young beer had yet to hit the barrel, it was mildly sweet, with virtually no sourness.
As Bockor tilts the percentage in “old” beer’s favor, the color of the blend doesn’t change, but carbonation, aroma and flavor does. As we increased to 25%, 50% and then 75% old beer, Bockor cranked up the sour dial, eclipsing the sweetness. FYI: Quartier ages “old” beers for 18 months, on average, determined by taste.
By the time we reached 100% “old,” the beer was tart enough to make me lick my lips. After we scaled Mount Sour, we received a glass of Cuvee des Jacobins, 100% old beer that Quartier shifted to stainless steel tanks after 18 months. Caramel malt extract gives the sour ale a unique color and flavor. The beer is only available in the U.S., since there’s actually a bigger market for sours Stateside. Surprisingly, Brouwerij Bockor’s biggest seller is a Pilsner. It may be good, but after the Blue Palms event, it’s hard to imagine drinking anything but sours from Bockor and Quartier.