Brewer: Tommie Sjef Wild Ales (Netherlands)
Style: Wild Specialty Beer
Review Year: 2020
Olasz by Tommie Sjef Wild Ales is a wild ale made from a blend of several barrels of beer of varying ages (one to two years old) macerated with three types of grapes: Olasz Rizling (white), Muscat (white), and a bit of Kékfrankos (red). A musician currently in his mid-20s, Tommie “Sjef” Koenen is considered a beer blending prodigy not just in the Netherlands but also around the world.
Tommie’s passion for spontaneous fermentation and barrel-aging bloomed first when he explored the fine world of Lambics and Gueuze from Belgium. For his earlier experiments, Tommie blended Lambics he sourced from Belgium. After a while, he started to chart his own path by ordering base wort for his production and fermenting these in wood barrels with his own house culture of wild yeast and bacteria. Due to the high demand for his craft, which is still true to this very day, Sjef had to relocate his barrels from his shed to a bigger location.
This beer is being evaluated as a Wild Specialty Beer (28C) in the context of the 2015 Beer Style Guidelines of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). The most current version of the guidelines can be found on the BJCP website.
Clear medium amber with a white head that dissipated quickly. Moderate aroma intensity mainly of apple cider, lemon peel, red grapes, and soft lactic acid. Subtle woody and soothing floral accents added complexity. Medium-light-bodied; carbonation is a notch above moderate with some tannin-derived astringency. Complex sourness and fruitiness composed the flavor profile– think of fermented raspberries, wild cherries, and red wine with vibrant citrus and lactic acidity. Sweetness and bitterness were both low; malt character was bright but likewise subdued. The wood character is oaky and ventured further into the aftertaste. Finished dry. The bottom portions with the sediments were more acidic as expected. No leathery and barnyard qualities.
Olasz is an excellent presentation of grape-and-wood complexity with vibrant citrus and berry-like acidity– a creation that captured the essence of the last days of summer leading to autumn. The wood was appropriately not the main attraction but instead imparted complementing aroma, flavor, and maybe some astringency from the tannins. Sweetness, bitterness, and malt character took the back seat, and we think this allowed Olasz to center more on the fruity-acidity from the grapes and fermentation.
Largely a beer-wine hybrid, Olasz had none of the leathery and barnyard funkiness associated with a Brett Beer (28A) but shared a similar sour balance with that of a typical Gueuze (23E). Best enjoyed in a picnic with friends during autumn.
- Interview with Tommie Sjef Koenen, Tommie Sjef Wild Ales (Bierversuche, 2018)
- The Difference Between Sour and Wild Ale (The Beer Connoisseur, 2018)
- Spontaneous Fermentation: Science, Not Sorcery (CraftBeer.com, 2011)
- The Sour Beer Spectrum (Craft Beer & Brewing, 2016)
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