The mother of all craft beers this afternoon, reviewed by Stu from Real Beer.
Some beers are made for session drinking. These beers are designed to be quenching and interesting, without being so thought provoking that they take your mind away from important matter such as conversation and conjecture. Other beers are more for savouring - sharing with special friends on special occasions.
Oude Reserve is in the latter category. Try a session on this and all you'll be savouring will be waking up three days later face down in a strange city with your memory gone, your wallet empty, and dressed like a pantomime donkey. No, this beer is definitely one for savouring. A very special strong beer (known as ‘barley wine’) from one of New Zealand’s little giants, the Limburg brewery in Hawkes Bay. At 10.5% it is, before you even taste it, a unique beer in our steadily growing local stable of excellent craft beers.
I first tried Oude Reserve at BrewNZ 2005, where it was already close to a year old. Back then I found it suitably interesting but a little unbalanced, with the individual hop and malt components still standing out alone and not fully intertwining. I must have been a harsh critic because the beer had just picked up a gold medal as the best BrewNZ festive brew (to the theme of "The Magnificence of Malt").
It's not an easy beer to get a hold of, especially for those of us that don't find a box of free beer sitting on your doorstep each evening when we arrive home (yes, I'm talking about our good friend Neil Miller here). This meant that I didn't get around to re-tasting the beer until BrewNZ 2006. Boy, was it worth the wait...
Pouring a bright burnished copper, without the usual foamy head you'd expect from a beer, it resembles a sherry more than your average beer. Sweet malts and an underlying fruitiness dominate the nose, reminiscent of barley sugars and orange marmalade. A slight meatiness and definite oxidised character, that is also very sherry-like, give away the fact that the beer is two years old. My brother is reminded of barley being toasted for haggis at the family home we grew up in. It's overwhelmingly thought provoking.
The flavour is no less demanding of your attention. More malt sweetness in the mouth; toffee and liquorice in the middle; a warming alcohol and spicy hop finish, which borders on hot; and a late lingering bitterness. More meatiness and sweet toasty malts linger on the palate. Challenging but so rewarding (we opened a Chimay Bleu after this, which almost seemed bland and lightweight on comparison).
The beer also won a gold medal and the best-in-class trophy for the Strong Beer category at BrewNZ 2006 (trumping Sam Adam’s 26% Utopia on the way). I wholeheartedly agree with the judges this year. For me it was the standout beer of BrewNZ 2006.
Oude Reserve is a beer that will win notoriety and media attention rather than a massive surge in profits. It’s a special treat for beer lovers such as myself and a real eye-opener for anyone dipping their toe into the wonderful pool of craft beers we now have available in New Zealand. Contact the brewery if you’d like to get your hands on some.
Pantomime donkey suits aside, you won't regret it.
Barley Wine style guide
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