Many of us can recall the days of cassette tapes and FM radio, and being strapped into the back of our parents car while they blasted whatever cheesy tunes were trending at the time.
Some of us, however, were the ones driving the car… forcing our children to listen to the gloriously gooey love songs of the ’80s and ’90s, by chart-topping artists such as Simply Red.
How this cheesy, soul-pop sensation crooned its way from broken-hearted ballads and onto a decal at Beerfarm, we’ll never know. But with tunes like ‘Holding back the beers‘ and ‘If you don’t know Flanders Red by now‘, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Despite its name, Simply Red was one of the most complex beers our brew crew have ever made. Houseing a mass of bacterias and yeasts which spent the last 12 months ageing in 8 different barrels, our Beerfarmer’s had their work cut out from them.
But with a bit of balance, a lot of taste-testing and some ‘holding back the beers’… they finally nailed it! We sat down with our very own Beerfarmer Josh Thomas, for a little Q&A on the challenges behind creating this sour-style red ale, and why he believes this super limited release is a real chart-topper.
Simply red wasn’t such a simple beer to make, being brewed in separate barrels and not in the brewery. What makes this brew so special?
The Flanders Red style is complex in both flavour and process. Along with aging beer in barrels for 12 months, we are faced with the challenges of balancing a lot of different bacteria and their characteristics that don’t come with your day-to-day Pale Ale.
With the unique variety of flavour profiles associated with Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces, we needed to play the balancing act and use the aged red malt base to carry through flavours of plum, raisin and cherry.
To add to this; every barrel is different, so it’s a process of elimination when it comes to the blending, another complex piece of the funky puzzle!
Talk us through the barrel process. What’s the benefit of leaving yeast and bacteria in barrels for 12 months, and what was the outcome?
Basically, to commence the process of micro-oxidation and to allow enough time for the bacteria to develop and mature. The intensity of flavour changes and increases as time goes on.
With some barrels carrying a bacteria like Acetobacter means it will consume alcohol with oxygen and produces Acetic Acid (Vinegar) in the barrel, so the control is making sure it doesn’t turn into 100% vinegar… that wouldn’t quite be beer.
We cultured up multiple strains of Brettanomyces and Lactobaccillus as well as some wild yeast in barrels with some last running wort. This ended up evolving into one of the favourites amongst the cultures we had going.
Out of all 8 barrels you aged, can you describe the flavours or aromas you ended up with in each?
Among some of the barrel tasting notes we did throughout the blending exercise, were:
Honey & sherry like characters
Sweet stone fruit aroma, oaky palette
Cherry & pepper, clean finish
Sherry like characters, more acidic than most
Bretty woody character, acidity higher
You sourced Cab Merlot barrels from Blind Corner, an organic and biodynamic winery in Margaret River. Out of all the epic wine to choose from in the region, what made Blind Corner stand out?
We have worked with Ben Gould (Owner and Founder of Blind Corner) since the beginning of BeerFarm days, and he has always been a winemaker we converse with a’ plenty.
We have served Bens wine alongside our Beers since we opened the venue and often try to wrangle some barrels off him. Being an organic winery it means his wines are a bit more unique and the barrels are free of any sulphur.
What flavours can Flanders fans expect to taste in Simply Red, and does it differ from your normal Flanders red ale?
I think the beauty of this beer is that it doesn’t stray too far from what its meant to be and I think that is also part of the success in making one of these beers. I think if anything, we have made it the BeerFarm way and that’s easy drinking for such a complex beer. Although we have harnessed in a lot of complex flavours, they’re all kept in check and balance each other out nicely.
What was the biggest challenge the brew crew faced when making Simply Red?
The biggest challenge would be balancing the variety of flavour characteristics and ensuring they all compliment each other and don’t overpower each other. Being a beer with so many layers of flavour, it still needs to be something you can enjoy and not get blown away with every sip. So to craft that is pretty challenging.
Who in the beer world is doing Flanders Red right, and what’s your favourite Flanders red that you’ve tasted so far?
I dare say we would be shot if we suggested anyone other than Rodenbach doing this style of beer right… and darn well too! Every rendition of their Flanders red ales are exceptional and nothing less, it’s pretty much the benchmark of what we would want to achieve when making this style of beer.
For me, barrel-aged with cherries is one of my favourites. Mostly because I usually don’t handle too much of the beers produced with cherries, but this one is so evenly balanced that the fruit works so well with the style – almost a match made in heaven. If you can get your hands on the Rogue, it’s also an exceptional beer in that style.
What bacteria from the brewing process would you say suits your personality the most, and why?
Probably Lactobaccillus, because at times I can be a bit tart… and sometimes a little bit sour!
If you could sit down with anyone in the world over a Simply Red, who would it be and why?
Probably Rudi Ghequire from Rodenbach, so he can review it and tell us how to make it better!
Want to get your lips around the first ever release of Simply Red? Tastings happening across Sydney and Perth on the below dates! Hit the links for more info.
SYDNEY – Bucket Boys Bar, September 19