De Dolle Brouwers is one of the classic small breweries of the early Belgian Craft Revolution. De Dolle came into existence in 1980 when the last small brewery, Constenoble, in the village of Esen was on the verge of closing due to illness. Instead of closing, so many other small breweries seemed to be doing in the second half of the 20th century, Constenoble was saved by architect, artist, and home brewer; Kris Herteleer.
Kris had won a prestigious brewing contest with his rich, dark beer and saw the opportunity to step into the brewing game when so many were choosing to leave it. That dark, award-winning beer became De Dolle’s first beer: Oerbier. Oer is a play on words. It’s a combination of “our” bier and the German “ur,” meaning original.
Originally, Herteleer obtained his yeast from Rodenbach until 2000. At this point, De Dolle had to start propagating its own yeast and did so from its older stocks. If you’ve read any of the Michael Jackson “Great Beers of Belgium” books, this beer was listed at 7.5% ABV. Currently, it’s coming in at 9% ABV. Oerbier is also renowned for its ageability.
This is due in part to a change the brewery instituted in 2005 when they began mixing lactobacillus into the fermentation mix. Over time this will cause the beer to sour and develop more depth and complexity. Because of this, I’ve acquired several bottles with the same bottling date. I’ll be opening a bottle at regular intervals to track the development of this beer. The bottles will be stored in my temperature controlled Vinotemp which maintains an ideal temp of 55F. I’m currently doing this with Sierra Nevada/Russian River Brux, you can read about it and view my tasting notes at The Brux Project. I have over 2 years of tasting notes there.
Appearance: Murky brown with amber tones, tan head, great retention.
Aroma: Wood, earthy, toffee, bitter chocolate, cinnamon, maple notes, spicy.
Taste: Chocolate, hard wood, wood character, spicy, maple.
Overall Impression: Oerbier is a fantastically deep beer with a lot complexity. Despite being a strong, dark beer with made with brewer’s sugar, the beer is on the dry-ish side with a long finish. De Dolle is a very small production brewery and despite their nearly 40 years of existence; they’re not as well known as they should be. They’re beers are a bit under the radar for the casual beer fan, but they are well worth seeking out. If you’ve never tried one of their beers, seek out the Oerbier. It’s their original beer and my favorite of their lineup. I’m excited to try this beer over time to watch it develop.
Availability: Limited quantities with periodic releases throughout the year. Imported by B. United International.
Note: Bottled in June of 2014, tasted on 9/29/2014