The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

The power of the sour: Moa 2014 Vintage Sours

rsz_screen_shot_2015-11-10_at_42711_pmWhen something has gone sour, most people would assume that it’s off. In the Moa brewery in Marlborough, the brewers’ fingers are crossed for (some of) their beers to take a turn.

Moa realised early on that the popularity of sour beers was set to soar. It’s had a Sours programme in place for four years, with an eye to create beers that are crisp, exciting and a little bit odd on the palette.

With a fermentation process most akin to how beer was brewed naturally some 7,000 years ago, a sour beer has been intentionally spoiled by the good type of bacteria (with little to no hops) in the same way that yoghurt is made from dairy.

To date Moa has had plenty of success with its sour brews, often dominating the category in New Zealand.

The fourth vintage of the Sour Series does not disappoint either, with medals already tucked under each brew’s belt from the recent Brewers Guild of NZ Awards 2015, where Moa’s new Rum Barrel Sour 2014 Vintage was awarded gold in the Specialty, Experimental, Aged, Barrel, Wood-Aged category and its Moa Sour Grapes took out bronze in the European Ale category.

The Rum Barrel Sour is a classic Belgian beer, which meets Moa’s funky unique (controlled) bacteria in the barrels, and is then rested for 12 months. It has a light oaky flavour that is almost sherry-like from its deep tart characters.

Taking grapes from head brewer David Nicholls’ own vineyard and adding these to the fermentation, Moa named its second vintage ‘Sour Grapes’, though Dave insists there isn’t any of that in the Moa family. “Staying true to our medal winning sour series, Moa Sour Grapes is a tip of the hat to the famous winemaking region where we reside”, says Nicholls.

Moa Sour Grapes (375ml) (6.9% ABV)

Tasting notes: Moa Sour Grapes is a refreshing and uniquely unusual Belgian-style fruit lambic. A wheat beer base was fermented and conditioned with Moa’s house sour microflora.

Generous amounts of whole bunch Sauvignon Blanc grapes were hand harvested from David Nicholls’ vineyard, and then left in contact with the wort during the main ferment and again in barrel for conditioning. Typical sour characters are evident in addition to the herbaceous vine-like characters from the grapes.

Moa Rum Barrel Sour (375ml) (9.0% ABV)

Tasting notes: Moa Rum Barrel Sour (2014 Vintage) is a rum barrel aged sour, loosely based on a Flanders Red Ale. The rich malt base has integrated with the vineous, slightly toasted oak flavours after 12 months conditioning in barrel, and is balanced by a mild Umami/savoury sourness, adding to the complexity of this beer.

Sherry like with a strong raisin character, this slightly tart beer finishes with a warming mouthfeel.