Beer: HaandBryggeriet Haandbakk (HBH)
Date: January 3rd, 2014
Style: Sour Ale, Wild Ale, Oud Bruin, Farmhouse Ale
Similar To: Bockor Bellegems Bruin, Petrus Oud Bruin, Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge.
As Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl once said "Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity". Heyerdahl's countrymen at the Haand Brewery have affirmed the continuing relevance of simplicity and tradition in their craft by reaching into the past to produce the first Norwegian beer using wild yeast in over 100 years. Haandbakk wild ale (also described as a 'sour ale', 'farmhouse ale' or 'oud bruin' to borrow from the Flemish) derives its tartness from the French wine casks in which it was fermented, and is a worthy representative of the category.
As with all of their beers, Haand's stylized handprint (see above) can be seen firmly grasping the bottle around the middle, like an international instruction manual for illiterate imbibers (hold beer here). The Haandbakk's red prints reminded me of nothing so much as those found scattered throughout the USG Ishimura in the game Dead Space. Though perhaps not the most flattering comparison, for me at least, it was a memorable one.
Back to the beer itself, it pours a dark, reddish brown with no head, and a lot of sediment.
Very tart, like I'd expect from a farmhouse ale. Grapes, cherries, and even some apple.
Sour and acidic as expected, with the same fruits that I smelled earlier dominating. Very tart with some indication grapes which were likely a result of the aforementioned wine barrels. After a couple of tastes I begin to pick up on a faint sweetness lingering after swallowing. Overall, uncomplicated but quite pleasant.
On the Palate:
Almost no carbonation, thick and slightly viscous, though not sludgy. The acidity definitely lingers in your mouth and coats your tongue.
Why You'll like It:
If you like farmhouse ales, Saisons, and even dry hard cider, this is going to appeal to you. The fruity taste really came through after a bit and the acidity lends it some genuine kick.
...and why You won't:
If tartness isn't your thing, I'd take a pass. This style isn't for everyone, and this beer in particular isn't likely to convert anyone who considers wild and sour ales to be closer to vinegar than to champagne.
HBH is an entertaining retelling of a well-worn classic, rather than a revolutionary (read: "progressive") new take on the style. While slightly disappointing in light of the initial promise offered by the aroma, this beer is worth seeking out for fans of sour and wild ales, particularly those whose experience is limited to Belgian varieties of those styles.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)