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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

Batch Chapeau! Raspberry Sour

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

There is one beer release I look forward to every year. Around late November/early December, Batch Brewing Co releases their Chapeau! Raspberry Sour. These guys are small, independent brewery in Sydney's Inner West and, while I've been drinking their beer for years, the Chapeau! always makes me excited. For me, the beer has become synonymous with summer and Christmas. The fresh flavour is full on and pure, and the sour style of the beer definitely works well to capture the natural tartness of the raspberries.

A few years ago, I was chatting with the staff and one of them casually mentioned that the beer would age. Apparently, given that sour beers have a much higher acid level than other beers, they will develop with time. Acid, for anyone who doesn't know, is a great preserver - this is why Riesling and Semillon age so well, and why vinegar is a key ingredient in pickling. Given how good the beer is fresh, I've never considered ageing it. Typically, any extra bottles (or now cans) that I had didn't make it past the end of summer. Over the last three years, I've made a deliberate effort to save some, hiding them in my wine rack, until I could taste test a few 'vintages' side by side. Given that ageing wine tends to mellow things out, I started with the oldest first and worked my way to the youngest.

Batch Chapeau! Bottled on the 17/12/2018, 6.7%abv

First thing you notice is the colour. Instead of being a rich, vibrant red it is a rusted, muted and dusty brick. Almost like a very deep amber ale, in a way, and surprisingly cloudy. There isn't much of a head on the beer, and what little there was disappeared fairly quickly. There is still some spritz on the tongue though. The nose is super mellow, maybe a little closed, but there are scents of briar and sweet spices, dried herbs and raspberry liqueur. Getting to the first sip, and the sour character definitely has not gone away. It's certainly not as powerful as younger versions, but it still keeps things quite fresh and balances out the caramelised berry coulis flavour and cherry brandy note. The tartness gives some good length. The beer does have a little bit of that medicinal character and, of all things, prosciutto rind. Pretty interesting, and a lot more developed and complex than I was expecting after just a few years.

Batch Chapeau! Bottled on the 3/12/2019, 6.9%abv

There is much more head in this beer. The colour is almost identical to the 2018, with the bright red oxidised and appearing like a red ale, with a little haziness going on. The nose has a little more fragrance, with fresh tart berries, fresh green thyme, brown sugar and a little bit of kirsch. It certainly comes across as fresher and, when drinking it, the beer has some lovely creamy mousse characters to it. Vanilla and berries come through, with some dried briar leaves again. While the acid comes across as higher, it also seems much softer, maybe being balanced out by the slightly higher alcohol content. Speaking of which, it doesn't seem as overt on the 2019 as the 2018. It's in a really good spot, if I do day so myself, with nice roundness of flavour and texture.

Batch Chapeau! Canned on the 25/11/2020, 6.4%abv

Ah, youth. Freshness. Purity. Between the 2019 and 2020 Batch made the move to eliminate their bomber bottles for the most part, and the Chapeau! now comes in an eye catching, golden can. And I do love a tinnie. The 2020 is a deep and vibrant red colour and, unsurprisingly, has a more aggressive head than the other two. After the 2019 and 2018, I was expecting to pick up a lot more subtleties from this beer, but the perfume is decidedly simple and restrained by comparison - softer and heavier, but showing nothing but fresh raspberries. Similarly, the taste is the purest - or simplest, depending on your point of view. Again, nothing but fresh raspberry, and the sourness comes across more as tartness. Texture wise, it certainly hasn't got the same weight, but it does have a creamier mousse and the sour acid is electrical.

So, first things first, I reckon I made a mistake by going oldest first and then to the youngest. Given how much complexity the older beers had (which I wasn't expecting at all!), I wonder if my palate was worn out by the time I got to the youngest of the three. If I could do this again I would absolutely start with the youngest, cleanest of the beers and work backwards.

But, to answer the question, do sour beers age? The short answer is yes. They aren't like wine or Imperial Stouts though - you likely don't want to age them too long because, while they have acid, the alcohol isn't high enough to allow for anything more than short term ageing. Objectively, it was the 2019 Chapeau! which was looking the best, but it is pretty damned different to its younger self at only a year old. I enjoyed the experiment, and I certainly learned from it, but I have a personal preference for the youngest beer.

I've always told people that it isn't a sin to drink wines young - there is nothing wrong with freshness and vitality. The same holds true here. When a beer is so good young, drinking it aged is really just a question of curiosity rather than getting a 'better' drink. By all means, be my guest if you want to save a few years of sour beers to put to the test but trying this once was enough for me. I think, in future, I'll stick to drinking this beer fresh from a can or tap and revel in its immediate deliciousness.

Batch Brewing Co have two locations. Batch Brewing is at 44 Sydenham Road, Marrickville and is open from 10am daily. A smaller location, called Small Batch, is behind the Petersham Public House at 292 Stanmore Road, Petersham. It is open from 2pm Mon-Fri, and 12pm on weekends.

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