Moa’s speciality sours hit the sweet spot

With 15 gongs awarded within the specialty category alone, Moa Brewing Co. embraces its knack in turning a brew (and sometimes a face) sour.

The final frontier for any craft aficionado, Moa head brewer David Nicholls is widely considered a master of sours. His latest vintage Sour Series, the fifth instalment of its well-established program of sour lambicstyled beers, is the Moa Cherry Sour 2014 Vintage and Moa Sour Blanc 2014 Vintage.

The Moa Cherry Sour 2014 Vintage has farmyard characters, evident from the Brettanomyces yeast which is known for its use in the second fermentation of sour beers, in Moa’s case seeing the brews age for 12 months and culminating in what David fondly considers ‘the best we’ve done yet’.

Brewed with a wheat base and from whole Marlborough cherries, the Moa Cherry Sour leaves a clean and tart yet powerful cherry taste on the tongue – a perfect pairing with Brie or aged Gouda. “Think less about hops and malt, and more about fruitiness, tartness, earthiness, and all kinds of funkiness. A decent sour develops more on the palate with each sip,” says David.

The Moa Sour Blanc 2014 Vintage is a sour beer in the traditional Belgian Lambic style, carefully balancing phenolic and complex acidity with dryness and funk, best summarised as a riot of flavours.

Also brewed with a wheat base, the Moa Sour Blanc can be described as simple yet elegant with hints of vanilla finishing clean, dry and tart on the palate – a great match with creamy dishes or seafood. Both fermented in the original barrels as its predecessors (Moa Cherry Sour 2013 Vintage and Moa Sour Blanc 2013 Vintage) and for a minimum of twelve months, these complex beers are a result of an intentional spoiling of the brew via Moa’s house-blend bacteria and wild yeasts throughout the fermentation process.

“It’s becoming less of a surprise as to what beer we end up with. We’re enjoying seeing each series develop a different depth of flavour as the house bacteria and microflora advance over time,” says Nicholls.

It is said that wine gets better with age and in this case, akin to a fine wine, each vintage sour produced by Moa becomes more and more complex as Nicholls’ control of the fermentation process improves, learning from previous variations and harnessing the existing properties of the bacteria-infected barrels.

“We’re putting a five year shelf life on these two new brews and are expecting some really great flavours to produce as they change with age,” says Nicholls.

In recognition of its strong foothold in the sours category which is on the rise in New Zealand, Moa has accumulated over 15 medals and awards for its sour beers from (almost) every competition the beers have been entered into. When quizzed on other craft breweries trying their hand at sour beers, Nicholls is thrilled that the category is experiencing growth, allowing him more competition to taste and benchmark his own brews.

“Right now we’re seeing a sour revolution across New Zealand. Our volumes are growing and for me, I get to see first-hand a beer epiphany moment for a lot of people when they come to the Moa cellar door. It’s pretty special to be a part of that,” says Nicholls.

Moa Cherry Sour (2014 vintage) 375ml, 7% ABV Tasting notes:

Moa Cherry Sour 2014 Vintage is a barrel fermented and aged cherry lambic beer.

Brewed with a wheat beer base and whole Marlborough cherries with 12 months in a combination of tank and barrel on both the skins and stones, cherry flavours are very upfront in this sour offering. Farmyard characters are evident from the Brettanomyces yeast and it is tart rather than over acidic. A food friendly beer well matched with Brie or aged Gouda. Price point: $10.99

Limited release available at selected supermarkets, liquor stores and craft beer bars nationwide.