Pestilence | Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House

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39 Ratings

Brewed by:
Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House
Ohio, United States

Style: Flanders Oud Bruin

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.40%

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes / Commercial Description:
Pestilence is a sour brown ale brewed with 7 varieties of malted barley and wheat, organic whole Hibiscus flower pedals and spicy hops from the Hallertau growing region of Bavaria. The name Pestilence is derived from the ancient biblical term for infection or plague. Through a natural process called sour mashing, we expose the mash to airborne elements for a period of 48 hours allowing for a natural infection to arise causing the beer to sour. After this process is complete, we collect the sweet, sour runnings and introduce the spicy hops. We then boil it for a period of 1 hour and steep it with fresh hibiscus flower pedals. The end result is a wonderfully aromatic blend of fresh botanical herbs and mouth puckering sourness.

Added by deadonhisfeet on 03-03-2012

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

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User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 39 |  Reviews: 17
Reviews by MaxSpang:
Photo of MaxSpang
3.08/5  rDev +29.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Served in a St. Bernardus chalice.


The beer pours a Coca-Cola brown, with just the slightest amount of deep red light poking through. There was a tiny white head when first poured, but it went away fast and left nothing remaining. There was little visible carbonation. Overall, it looks somewhat like a clear Belgian dark - nice looking beer.


There's some interesting aroma coming from this beer. There is some nice dark fruits, such as plum and raisin. There is a bit of Greek yogurt, which is followed by a bit of stomach acid... Not exactly unpleasant, but definitely different. There's a good amount of sweetness on the nose as well, bringing some nice maltiness and maybe a bit of caramel. The hop character is on the spicy side, bringing some floral and honey-like aromas. Overall, pretty complex but not the most pleasant smelling brew.


The taste is fairly different than the aroma. There is a surprising amount of cocoa in this beer, which I was not expecting. There's a big amount of nutty flavor that reminds me a lot of cashews, which was also unexpected. There is a decent sour twang to it, but it's not a jaw-locking sourness. More like a pretty solid tartness throughout. The first few sips brought that stomach acid flavor, which reminded me of... well, puke. As it warms up, though, that flavor is replaced with more of a Greek yogurt flavor. There's a lot of dark fruits in here, as well as some hop spice and floral flavors. This is a pretty complex beer on the tongue!


This has a bit more body than I had anticipated. There is a nice, dry finish and the tartness creates a crisp mouthfeel. There is a lingering oily feeling that reminds me of the leftover oil from a cashew. It's pretty easy drinking, but the sort of wild flavors keep this from being a beer you can chug. Nice mouthfeel on this brew.


An unusual beer to say the least. It's not a sour to end all sours, but it is a unique experience to drink this beer. There's some interesting funky things going on that makes you want to keep drinking, but it's not so wild that it's off putting. Admittedly, the stomach acid aroma and taste frightened me at first, but it smoothed out as the beer warmed. I would definitely recommend trying this beer. It's fairly cheap for a sour ale, so grab a few bottles and age'em until after the end of the world.


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More User Reviews:
Photo of prototypic
2.51/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

Pestilence pours a darker, nut brown color. It looks mostly clear. Backlighting shows some crimson highlights. The color isn’t bad. Unfortunately, a head never materialized. A few white bubbles collected on the surface, but disappeared just as quickly as they arrived. Disappointing. Makes for a rather average look overall.

The nose is actually below average. It’s not very aromatic at all. It desperately needs more strength. UP front, it smells mostly grainy. There is a bit of funky scent to it. It frankly smells rather bad. It smells a little tart. There’s a bit of brown malt throughout. Very light, subtle floral notes are present. Alcohol doesn’t smell very strong. Eh. This one doesn’t smell good at all if you ask me.

The flavor is marginally better than the nose. Still not very good. It is grainy and a little malty initially. The malts taste a little cocoa-ish. It’s not sweet. There’s definitely a musky, funky flavor to it. It’s really not that tart though. It’s just kind of there. Doesn’t add anything positive to the mix. It’s definitely floral. I’m not all that crazy about that aspect either. A little tartness emerges at the secondary level, but it’s very subtle. Alcohol is masked well. Doesn’t taste all that strong. I’m not sure of the abv, but I’d be shocked if it were above 6% or so. Just a guess. Finishes grainy, floral, and slightly tart.

Pestilence has a lighter body. Carbonation is very light and restrained. It needs a little more body to feel smooth. It’s not a bad feel though. It may well be its best attribute.

To my knowledge, a pestilence is a fatal disease. I wouldn’t go quite that far in characterizing this beer, but I will say it’s not good. Needs a lot of work in just about every respect. Skip this one.

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Photo of Zonian1
2.43/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 2.25 | smell: 2.25 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

Photo of FalconA
2.5/5  rDev +5%

Photo of emerge077
2.33/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

Thanks Patrick for leaving this one behind last weekend...

Deep reddish orange brown when held to the light. A wispy layer of tan skim sits on the surface, soon becoming glassy.

Smell starts out a bit weird, with some cider vinegar and sulfur/ammonia notes of overripe cheese, settling down more into some dried mushroom, buttered biscuit, and mushy stone fruit territory. Something in there vaguely reminds me of apple butter and Rodenbach, but ultimately it just seems off.

Bright sourness, crisp at first then quickly becoming watery with an odd smoky note. Citric acid and some weird smoky, vegetal dandelion notes in the middle, dry finish with a (thankfully?) nonexisitent aftertaste. Very sour initially, astringent, then oddly bland and fleeting.

Not sure what to make of this Sour Brown Ale/Oud Bruin, it definitely needs some finessing to make it work.
Out of 40 Oud Bruin reviews so far, this was the second worst.

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Photo of bluejacket74
2.42/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

12 ounce bottle. Served in a Unibroue tulip, the beer pours a reddish/brown color with a half inch light tan head that stayed around a little while. Small amount of lacing. The aroma is well, interesting. The beer smells like funky cheese and vomit. Well, maybe a little more cheese than vomit, but I don't think it's a nice smelling brew. Luckily, the taste is somewhat better than the aroma. The brew tastes like tart cherries, dark fruit, nuts, and unfortunately still a bit of vomit. Mouthfeel/body is medium, it's a bit slick with moderate carbonation. Overall I didn't care much for this brew. It reminded me too much of vomit for me to enjoy it, but then I did finish the bottle with no problem so I guess it wasn't truly horrible. $2.99 a bottle. I'm certainly not going to buy this again, and I'm hoping the other beers in this series aren't as bad this one.

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Photo of vrbulldog22
2.25/5  rDev -5.5%

Photo of buschbeer
3.47/5  rDev +45.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

1 pint mason jar. It is not really a growler. Party Town in Florence fills pint jars and growlers.
Served in a flute

A - It looks like the jar was filled from a mud puddle. There is some brown sludge on the bottom of the jar. A fairly aggressive pour yielded me a couple inches of tan head.

S - I get some tart aromas and I swear I get some cocoa.

T - I get some tartness through the middle. It tastes similar to green apples. That's about it. There is no lingering sourness and really no other flavor than the green apple.

M - Moderate.

O - It's different. I would either prefer more sourness or some other flavors to go with the tartness.

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Photo of deadonhisfeet
3.46/5  rDev +45.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured from my growler into a New Belgium tulip. Sours are quite rare around here and the proprietor at Party Town has been having lots of fun getting people to try this. It pours a nice-looking reddish brown color with slight haze and a thin head that dissipates quickly (not unusual for sours). The nose is funky ... seriously funky (like a monkey). The funk on this beer has funk of its own. It's like limburger cheese. We are talking some serious funk here. I don't know whether to rate the nose high because of how funky it is or to rate it low because, well, because of how funky it is.

The flavor is very sour and appetizing. I'm getting fruity notes of very tart cherries and sour apples. There is a tannic, wine-like quality that really dries out your mouth and adds to the drinking experience. I wish there was a bit more sweetness in there to balance out some of the sourness though. The sour character is brilliant, but there is a very faint ``cheesy'' taste on the finish that I find just a bit unpleasant (I don't know how else to describe it). If it wasn't for that, I'd give this beer higher marks for taste. Still, it's so faint I didn't even taste it with every swig and I still enjoyed the beer.

Overall, I have to applaud Rivertown and recommend this beer to anyone who can find it (especially if you like sours). I'm overjoyed that one of the local breweries decided to make a genuine wild ale. I overheard another customer at Party Town remark that, with all the people who wander around Cincinnati coughing and sneezing, there had to be SOMETHING in the air that, if harnessed, could make a killer sour. I seriously hope that Rivertown tries this again (and tweaks it a bit). At any rate, I also picked up a bottle of it to save for New Years. I am going to try to collect all 4 beers in Rivertown's ``4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse'' series and have a ``Mayan Apocalypse Vertical'' at the end of 2012.

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Photo of csustar001
2/5  rDev -16%

Photo of BarryMFBurton
1.93/5  rDev -18.9%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2

Random pick-up from a random shelf in a random bottle shop in Muncie, IN. Naturally, No hype, no background, no idea what to expect – the way beer should be sampled.

A: No head; what’s going on here? Just a spritzing of bubbles along the edge of the glass and that’s it. Odd. The body color is dark brownish-red, with a coffee-like texture (though not as thick-looking).This does not look very appetizing.

S: Whoa, that’s a pungent funk – stinky cheese and fatty yogurt. It’s unlike anything I’ve smelled before; at first, it’s completely unappetizing, though it’s a bit better after the initial shock is gone. Below that is a dull mix of dark fruit jam, floral notes, chipotle-reminiscent hops, and a molasses malt. This is one interesting nose, but not appetizing at all; that funk is stomach-churning.

T: Quite sour, with a big lemon tartness. Unidentifiable berry comes through, as well. Some spice comes through in the hop profile, pepper and chile, but with an unmistakable flowery character; that, plus light wheat, caramel, and toasted grain is really all that I’m getting. It ends on that same cheesy funk note from the nose, finishing in a very unappetizing way. Couldn’t finish the bottle.

M: Fairly oily, though it’s refreshingly light in its slickness. No carb, as expected.

O: Well, this one does have a good tart character in its palate; unfortunately, that one off-flavor completely kills it for me. My stomach still hasn’t settled, even after pouring it out.

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Photo of CFHMagnet
2.89/5  rDev +21.4%
look: 3 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I don't know if the people of Rivertown don't understand calenders and have bought into the hype of the 2012 "Mayan Apocalypse" junk or if it's just a marketing ploy, but I do like the "Pestilence" name/theme, and I won't let my disdain for the apocalyptic crowd affect my judgement of the brew.

An aggressive pour netted me a thin half finger of head that was gone before I could get a good read on the color. Body is a mahogany color with not even an attempt at lacing. Lots of bubbles noted though.

Head wasn't bad to begin with. Nice malt, a little flower; and then the cheese reared it's head. It's like a whiff of cheap cheese-food.

Thank goodness I don't taste cheese. Flavor is a light sour apple with vinegar spirit. A bit of flower and lemon comes through on the end.

Mouthfeel is light, with carbonation very much present, but not overly biting. Washes down clean, not sticky.

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Photo of NW2285
2.75/5  rDev +15.5%

Photo of meanmutt
2/5  rDev -16%

Photo of Ryan011235
1.18/5  rDev -50.4%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

On tap in tulip at Bodega on 4/26/12

Medium, rusty brown color. A one half finger head leaves only bubbles around the collar and a few drips of lace.

This smelled like Jolly Ranchers and trash can at first. Then like sour candy. It's waaay sugary. Floral overtones and dirty water. This smells like bad candy, not beer. Oh boy, it tastes like bad candy, too. Tart dark fruits and sour apple. The finish has a puckering notion rattled with musty, dirty lingerings. Carbonation is brash, hurtling anger amid the sourness. Light body with an unpleasant finish.

If sour candy is your thing, you might like this. It ain't for me though. The base brown ale is basically not there.

There's a reason this stayed on tap at Bodega for weeks and weeks. No one was buying it because it sucks.

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Photo of jaidenjb
3/5  rDev +26.1%

Photo of jsurfs82
3/5  rDev +26.1%

Photo of HeightsEats
4.3/5  rDev +80.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Sharp aroma of hibiscus and malt. The flavor is full-bodied with plenty of puckery fruitiness, a bit of roast from the malt and minimal hops. Very refreshing and unique. I don't tend to be a fan of overly sour beers and could never quite appreciate Petrus. The hibiscus somehow focuses the tartness, though, to make for a very drinkable beer. It's also really food-friendly and paired well with wings, ribs and pulled pork.

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Photo of SnatchyMcPants
3.5/5  rDev +47.1%

Photo of nlmartin
1.87/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 1.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 1.5

I snapped a few of these up on the based on the quality of Rivertowns Lambic. After a brief chilling the beer was served in a snifter.

Ap- The beer had a head that was white and briefly lasted. So basically I am looking at a glass that looks like effervescent ice tea.

S- The base of the beer is a nutty cocoa aroma. Lactic tones begin to announce a prescence but not enough. If you guys are going to make a sour brown or a wild ale go big or piss off. The beer gets a 2.0 for not being funky enough.

T- The flavor of the beer leads with subdued acitic and lactic sour green apple flavor. The beer takes a brief turn towards cocoa and then finishs up with lemony tartness. Its not terribad. I sense that the brewer has held back instead of going for broke.

M- The body of the beer is light and effervescent. The tartness lingers around nicely in the finish.

O- I really wish the brewer had went for broke. The beer isnt a drain pour but I didnt particularly enjoy drinking this beer.

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Photo of Mark000
1/5  rDev -58%

Photo of NateMac13
2.25/5  rDev -5.5%

Photo of ONUMello
3.3/5  rDev +38.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz bottle poured into a tulip
A: Muddy brown, noticeable yeast particles, a 1/2-finger head that disappears almost as soon as it's poured
S: Melt down some toffee/caramel/butterscotch, pour in some cream & add a handful of flowers. That combination is what I smell. Intriguing, but not necessarily something I want to smell all day
T: A strong sourness is the first thing that comes across. I like acidity in beverages and this is very strong. Tart green apple up front, a large squeeze of lemon & lime, and just a bit of the sweetness & toffee characteristic from the nose on the finish
M: Thin & puckeringly sour though not unpleasant if you don't mind the sourness
O: While perhaps not for everyone, I enjoyed taking my time to sip and contemplate this beer. I think it's my first time trying the style, and I will definitely search out more. Based on this one bottle, I would love to see Rivertown do a collaboration with Cleveland's Indigo Imp. I will also add I really like the layout/design of the beer's label.

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Photo of MSandahl23
2/5  rDev -16%

Photo of seeswo
1/5  rDev -58%

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Pestilence from Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House
Beer rating: 2.38 out of 5 with 39 ratings