Collaboration beers, when done well, can be a thing of beauty. That’s certainly the case with this Doctor’s Orders and Bridge Road collaboration.
The concept is this: four sour beers, berliner weisses to be precise. The interesting part is that they’re all the same base beer.
The base beer is the first in the four pack, the other beers were produced by mixing the base with various adjuncts; rhubarb juice, grapefruit juice and raspberry puree.
The beers are fermented with a mixture of Lactobacillus, Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces. There’s some debate around whether these beers can be considered truly “spontaneous” but I’ll leave that for other people to argue. Either way, it doesn’t stop these from being bloody good beers.
Pouring straight from the bottle, the first thing that leaps out at you is the familiar lacto sour smell.
There are some very subtle citrus and melon aromas but perhaps that’s just the memory of past sour beers.
Pouring into the glass, you’ll see beautiful carbonation. It fizzles and pops and then settles out. A quick swirl of the glass and you’ll get the bubbles going again.
The base beer has a tonic-like character. It finishes surprisingly dry, almost like a clean lager.
Both the carbonation and dryness is evident in the mouthfeel, it’s incredibly light and sparkly, it feels like fizzing candy on the tongue.
Balanced and Neutral
In terms of taste, there’s mild tartness. The sourness isn’t too assertive but merely confident in itself. It’s exactly what you want from a clean and straightforward berliner weisse.
It’s a balanced and fairly neutral flavour which serves as a perfect palate cleanser. You can pick up ever so slightly on some of the wheat content that provides the base of the style.
On the first few sips, I definitely got more lacto character than brett. There’s very little on the acetic or vinegary side, nor is there much funk. It’s a very clean and light-tasting beer.
Warm Up For The Farmyard
However, as the beer comes up to room temperature the brett comes out to play, a bit more funk comes out and there’s a subtle whiff of the farmyard. Delicious for the brett-fiends out there.
With these type of concept beers, I usually like to sit and ponder them for a while, generally taking in the full experience of the beer.
I drank about half this bottle before starting to eat some chilli tuna rice paper rolls and it was a very nice match. The sourness of the beer lifted the chilli straight off my palate, cleansing it and balancing out the heat.
However with the other beers, and when it came to blending, I didn’t pair with food but gave the beers the focused attention they deserve.
Doc has form with rhubarb, as anyone who tried Serum at GABS 2015 will know. And from what he said during the Sessionable Live podcast during Sydney Craft Beer Week 2015 he became well versed with experimenting to get the right amount.
This version of the beer has just the right hint of the plant.
The addition of rhubarb gives it that very light pinky, rose-gold kind of colour and imparts just enough of that familiar tart and slightly earthy flavour.
You Either Like Rhubarb Or You Don’t
If you have memories of rhubarb crumble (a dessert I’ve only started to appreciate in recent years but still don’t have a lot of love for), memories will come back strong. And it’s in this that a preference for the beer could become very subjective.
While it shares much of the same character as the base beer, with the almost yoghurt like lacto character dominating before the brett peeks through, it’s definitely sweeter than the parent beer.
The flavour is predominantly that sweet/tart stewed rhubarb you get in desserts and it finishes ever so slightly astringent, at least in comparison to the crisp finish in the base beer.
The bottle packaging says they encourage blending and I tried various quantities of this with the base beer but this one stands very much on its own. “Diluting” it with the base beer didn’t do much for me, however, if the rhubarb flavour isn’t to your liking, it might be worth blending in some of the base or one of the other beers to take the edge of the rhubarb.
There aren’t many things that make me want to eat rhubarb crumble, but this is one of them. And I think it would be a very nice pairing.
The next beer in the line up is grapefruit. The colour of the beer is more on the yellow/pale gold side and the grapefruit aroma and flavour came through subtly.
It’s something quite different to the typical grapefruit flavours that people associate with new world hops because you get the full tart experience.
I tried blending with the base and much of the same thing happened as with the rhubarb. Perhaps this is a good way of toning down the flavour. I also tried blending it with the rhubarb and it was a pretty interesting mix. It become more like a fruit salad in flavour, towards the tropical side, a bit like a sour alcopop. In a good way. It was very interesting.
Perhaps it’s the natural tartness of the grapefruit but this did taste a touch more sour. It also had a bit more funk so I’m not sure if the brett reacted differently with the sugars in the grapefruit.
There wasn’t overbearing citrus sharpness which you can sometimes get with grapefruit flavours. Instead it was very restrained. This was possibly the most refreshing of the four beers.
I might be biased because I do have an unfailing love for raspberry sours but this was my favourite of the four.
The sweetness of the raspberries punches straight through the sour base but in the background the tartness starts to swell and then comes to the fore. It tingles on the tongue and it’s delightful.
And it’s gorgeous to look at, a beautiful rose blush colour.
Tingly, Fizzy, Sweet-Sour Sherbet
I always get a fantastic sherbet like flavour from raspberry sours and that’s definitely here. From the flavour through to the mouthfeel and finish, it tingles and fizzes with a sensation that elicits a childlike glee.
If you decide to blend, the same rule could be applied as with the rhubarb. If this is too sweet for you, a touch of the base beer to “dilute” it might make it more to your taste.
Blending The Beers
Blending rhubarb and raspberry gives the beer a bit of a milky complexion, and brings to the fore more astringent and almost tannic qualities. The contrast between the tart and the sweet really elevated both flavours and combined nicely.
Grapefruit and raspberry 50/50 balanced both flavours nicely. The blended beer remains subtle and refreshing, with neither flavour taking over too much which is testament to the strength of character in each of the beers.
The tartness of the grapefruit takes the sweet edge of the raspberries and vice versa. The carbonation increases the sherbet nature of the raspberry.
This is definitely my favourite of the bunch and the one with which I had the most fun blending.
All four of the beers, including the base could be returned to again and again. They pack in both incredible character and versatility. They’re beers that you could have a bit of a session drinking, or enjoy as an accompaniment to a fine meal.
Overall, this is the kind of release that keeps craft beer interesting in Australia and showcases the immense creativity of our brewers across the country.
Darren ‘Doc’ Robinson of Doctor’s Orders and Ben Kraus of Bridge Road are probably two of the most creative and original brewers in Australia right now, so it’s no surprise that such an interesting and successful collaboration should come from them.
If you see the Spontaneously Fermented series in bottles, definitely try to pick up the four pack. If you see it on tap, then you’re a very lucky individual indeed.
From: NSW / VIC
Beer style: Berliner Weisse
Pair with: Play around with blending the beers
Have you tried the Spontaneously Fermented beers? If so, leave a comment and let me know which was your favourite and whether you blended them.