Archive for the ‘Wild Beer’ Category

12 Beers of X-Mas: Noel de Calabaza

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

One of the few all-wild breweries in the United States, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales in Dexter, Michigan ages every drop of beer in oak barrels. The process is labor intensive, and not just because it requires handling barrels that weigh upwards of 100 pounds (when empty!). Extensive blending is needed to get any consistency, a process made all the more difficult with short run offerings like the 2012 Noel de Calabaza I’m tasting tonight.

Jolly Pumpkin Noel de CalabazaThe Noel pours a deep mahogany brown, darker still due to the heavy haze. The creamy sandy brown head lasts and lasts. The aroma is subtle but complex – a delicate malty and fruity sweetness is composed of caramel, raisins and plums, and an earthy, barnyard brettanomyces funk peeks out from behind, growing as the beer warms.

The flavor is alternately sweet and funky. Toffee and caramel combine with plums and figs, with an herbal hop character holding its own. The earthy, almost sweaty wild yeast character tickles the sides of the tongue while the sweetness soothes the top. A light sour and a bit of a smokiness round out the taste. Just as complex but not quite as subtle as the nose, the flavor fades a bit towards the end, allowing the alcohol to come to the fore. The body remains full but due to the brett it finishes quite dry.

++Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza

4.3 (4-9-8-4-18)

Thanksgiving Sour Ales

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The Huffington Post has an article with Thanksgiving beer suggestions by Justin Philips from Beer Table. Three of the six are sour ales: Rodenbach Grand Cru, BFM‘s Abbaye de Saint Bon Chien, and the Leipziger Gose from Bayerischer Bahnhoff.

My family had Thanksgiving early this year, and it occurred to me that sour ales are particularly suitable for Thanksgiving. In many ways a sour ale is much like a fine wine, seeming to balance the food in a way that a lot of beer doesn’t. Also it’s a really good chance to challenge your family and friends’ expectations about beer. The large (wine-sized) bottles it’s sold in encourage sharing.

Here are several sour beers I think would make a good addition to a Thanksgiving table. Mariage Parfait, the oude geuze from Brouwerij Boon in Lembeek, Belgium, compares favorably with champagne. I’ve written about the rich aroma, which seems light but draws you in, and the bold yet approachable flavor.

Another good choice to match a Thanksgiving meal is Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. This is a richer beer, with a strong flavor reminiscent of balsamic vinegar. It also has dark fruit and port character. This is one of my favorites; you can read more about it in one of my two reviews.

My last suggestion isn’t actually sour, but it is brewed with Brettanomyces wild yeast. It’s Alive from Mikkeller, the gypsy brewer, also has a bright champagne-like quality. But It’s Alive is a little stronger and has a healthy infusion of hops to boot. The balance between the hop bitterness and the earthy character from the brett is masterful.

The Session #42: A Special Place, a Special Beer

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This entry is the second of a number that I wrote notes for while in Germany but never posted. Specifically, this was intended to be my submission for The Session #42.session_logo The Session is a beer blog carnival. Many beer writers all around the Tubes come together the first Friday of every month to talk about a particular topic. August was hosted by The Beer Runner, Derrick Peterman, who implored us to “write about a special place in your life”. The prompt is located here and the roundup can be found here. For more information about The Session, please visit Jay Brooks’ website.

When I found out that this month’s topic was ‘place’, I knew immediately where to write about. If there is anything like a beer mecca, it must be in Belgium, and specifically, the Delirium Cafe in Brussels. Other places may have more personal meaning to me (like The Sanctuary in Iowa City), but the Delirium is far and away the largest selection of beer available anywhere, and for that it deserves a visit from each and every beer fan.

It might be misleading to claim they have so many beers available (they had 2004 on one day in 2004 when the Guiness Book of Records inspectors counted), because many of them are imports. In my opinion, you would be crazy to order a German beer in the Delirium, despite the fact that they call those their ‘specialty’. However, I will confess to having a Denver Pale Ale while there, if only so I could say that I had. It’s just like Frank Möhlenkamp said, “you wouldn’t go to Bordeaux and order a white wine”, so you shouldn’t go to Brussels and order anything but a sour beer. At least for the first round.

Felix Speciaal OudenaardsOne of the best parts about the Delirium is their cellar. There are several vintages available of a number of beers. The menu is rarely current, though, so tip your bartender and they may feel like telling you about some secret bottle they have stashed away.

Adding to the impression that the Delirium is actually some sort of temple to beer is the vast collection of bottles, glassware, trays, towels, and every other kind of beer memorabilia decorating the whole pub. Old barrels even serve as a few of the tables.

But the Delirium is never campy. The chairs are comfortable, and you get the idea that it would not be too hard to become a regular there, if one were lucky enough to live in Brussels. The bartenders know their shit. It is through and through a real place: if you squint, you can almost see Jimbo’s old Underground pub in Grinnell.

Friends at the Delirium CafeI didn’t start writing about the Delirium out of the blue: just days prior to The Session I had the opportunity to bring two of my good friends there. I was lucky enough to be able to share some of my favorite sours and other Belgians with them, as fresh as can be.

We tried a sour I hadn’t seen before, Felix Speciaal Oudenaards from the Brouwerij Clarysse in Oudenaarde, East Flanders. It pours a deep caramel red color with a creamy beige head. The nose is big and sweet, with a strong balsamic vinegar character and a good woodiness.

The taste is also sweet and balsamic. It is a bit sour, but that doesn’t last for too long. Though it is sugary to the point of being cloying, the palate is somehow full and pleasant. Woody and herbal hops make an effort to balance it out.

+Felix Speciaal Oudenaards

4.0 (4-9-8-3-16)

Spotlight Week: Goose Island Beer Company

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

2010-01-14-giIf you want an inspirational story about a brewery that pulled itself up by its bootstraps, you need look no further than Goose Island Beer Company. In 1988, John Hall opened the first Goose Island Brewpub, at Clybourn and Sheffield on the north side of Chicago. Though essentially in Lincoln Park, the brewery is not all that far from Cabrini-Green, which at the time was easily the most unsafe part of the northside. Over the years the brewpub built a community of beer fans and simultaneously played an instrumental role in revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood.

By 1995, the brewpub had grown enough that Goose Island opened the brewery on Fulton Street. This is the facility that currently produces all the company’s bottled beers. They have since expanded further, opening a second brewpub on Clark Street, half a block from Wrigley Field. Each of the two brewpubs produces their own specialties and unique creations. After a deal with Widmer (wherein Goose Island brews are sold by Anheuser-Busch distributors) the beer is now available nationwide, and also in England. It seems the plan has paid off, for in the last three years they have grown from 37th largest brewery to 22nd.

2010-01-14-matildaGoose Island produces five year-round beers: 312 Urban Wheat Ale (one wonders what exactly “urban” means here), Honker’s Ale (a regular bitter), India Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale (formerly the more inspired Hex Nut Brown), and Oatmeal Stout. They also brew a variety of seasonals (some with more interesting names) and their acclaimed special reserves. Among the most sought-after craft beers these days is their Bourbon County Stout, a bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout that sells for upwards of $5 per 12 ounce bottle. Tonight I will try three others of the brewmaster’s specials: the Belgians Matilda, Sofie, and Juliet.

Matilda used to be brewed with Brettanomyces wild yeast. It is my understanding that they now only bottle with that infernal bug. It pours the color of a persimmon, crystal clear despite warnings of “a sediment”. The lace-inducing off-white head is not nearly voluminous enough. Matilda has a delicate fruity nose: mostly raspberries, cherries, and honeydew. There is a little spicy aroma and some clean malt as well. Perhaps some roses in the background.

2010-01-14-sofieThe taste is spicy with yeast character. A noticeable alcohol warming supports the peppery flavor. There is some strange fruit and caramel. A little dustiness and that strange fruit are all I get from the Brett. A bit of hop bitterness seems present but is quickly gone. Tastes just a little flat. Officially it is “dry and quenching”, but I don’t find it either. There is a prominent sweetness that turns cloying, leaving a coating on the tongue accompanied by a lingering astringency. Don’t drink this one now; sit on your bottles for two or three years.

Twenty percent of Sofie has been aged in wine barrels of undetermined varietal on a bed of orange peels. This has been blended back with the unadulterated version to yield a barely hazy, barely yellow brew. A decent amount of creamy bright-white head leaves a thick lacing on the glass. The nose is of orange peel, almost to the point of smelling like Gojo. Actually, it has the exact aroma of fermented Mountain Dew (not that I know that at all).

The taste continues the citric bomb with a tart lemon flavor. At first that character makes it seems like a Berliner weisse, but it is not nearly acidic enough and much too sweet. The lemon yields to pepper and a malt flavor. The sweetness lasts throughout and lingers on. This is a highly regarded beer, and frankly I don’t understand why. The flavor is flat and the sweetness cloying. As my brother (who likes it) said, people must like Mountain Dew more than I.

2010-01-14-julietFinally we get to Juliet, an aptly-named sour, aged in wine barrels of indeterminate variety on blackberries (at one point they were using gooseberries). Juliet is an opalescent burnt orange with some white head. The nose is deep. Fruit dominates the first level, mostly pie cherries, dates, blackberries, kiwi, and raisins. Then comes a dusty, barnyard sweetness. Deeper yet is a rich balsamic vinegar character. A complicated and intriguing aroma.

The flavor is likewise complicated. Seriously fruity at first, the sour character soon comes out. Berries, pomegranate, and a little more exotic fruit are present. A lemon tart and balsamic vinegar sour add a rich complexity. Some caramel flavor attempts a malty coup but the acidity fights on. The flavor continues to develop on the tongue for several minutes, eventually resting as a latent astringency. The sweetness and acidity balance each other initially but they both linger a bit long. An otherworldly berry taste is really the star of this beer.

++Goose Island Juliet

4.3 (4-9-9-3-18)

+Goose Island Matilda

3.6 (3-8-7-3-15)

+/-Goose Island Sofie

3.2 (4-6-6-3-13)

Furthermore Thermo Refur

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

This is quite possibly the strangest beer made by an American microbrewery (and I realize how bold of a statement that is), yet it maintains cohesiveness and drinkability. The sages of Spring Green Furthermore Beer produce something they call Thermo Refur. It has plenty of malt and loads of hops. (Not so odd.) They’ve added Brettanomyces wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. (Okay, a pedestrian eccentricity.) Also black pepper. (Getting stranger…) Did I mention beets as well? Dwight Schrute would be so proud.

2009-12-10-thermorefurEverything I’ve heard has been to give the Refur plenty of air and time. This article over at the Madison Beer Review about Thermo Refur goes into great detail on the role temperature plays in sensory perception. This bottle (from January) has been poured, let’s let it breathe for a minute.

The Refur is ruby, an almost purple-colored brown which hearkens strongly to the beets within. Very active on the pour, it generates plenty of head, a creamy tan. Some of this lasts. The nose is initially very light, with a bit of a dark fruity character that comes across as plums and fruitcake. Some spices accompany this, giving it a clean, cool, peppery aroma. As it warms the fruit turns into pie cherries. Some dusty barnyard aroma is found hiding there.

A rich assortment of dark fruit flavors is revealed at first. Raisins, cherries, plums, and dates are joined by a vinous character. The pepper comes through, too, paired with the hop bitterness to leave a refreshing palate. A hint of sour comes out more and more with air and warmth. The fruit on the tongue opens up as well, revealing raspberries and a just a hint of cough-syrup cherry. A vinegar character grows over time. The carbonation is extremely lively but not at all sharp.

Thermo Refur is quite odd in design. If beer is made with four ingredients, three of the four are weird in this beer. Weird microorganisms: the usual yeast, plus some wild, and bacteria, too. Weird spices: hops but also black pepper. Weird fermentables: beets with the malt. Many breweries nowadays are content to simply throw strange things in a pot and let it go. Furthermore has gone fifteen steps further, crafting an opus of flavor. Despite the nontraditional ingredients this has a somehow familiar flavor. Strange and at the same time sensational.

+Furthermore Thermo Refur

3.8 (4-8-7-4-15)

Festival of Iowa Beers 2009

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

2009-09-06-prosI had a pretty good time at the Festival of Iowa Beers today. As always, the buzz and bustle was around the homebrewers’ tent. There were a wide range of beers on tap there: imperial this that and the other, a few sours, and several real ales served on a beer engine. The pros had a few interesting taps, but predictably most were pouring their usual fare.

There was plenty of gossip and news to be had, lots about brewery openings. The owners of Jasper Winery are apparently occupying the old Maytag factory in Newton with their new brewery. That’ll be running a copper 15 barrel two-vessel brewhouse. I also heard about a new startup that’s currently courting investors – they call themselves Grass Roots Brewing.

2009-09-06-hub-cityHub City up in Stanley is finishing the preparations on their new addition, featuring a 30 barrel brewing system. They will apparently be running double batches into 60 barrel (!) fermenters. That’s a huge increase in capacity, but apparently their distributors are working hard to keep that beer on the shelves. Hub City will also be releasing two small batch series: one of seasonals and one of high-gravity specials available only outside the state (thank you Iowa ABD!). More about those nearer to their year-end release.

I was able to try two of the beers B.J. from Hub City is developing. The first was the Russian Imperial Stout, the initial release in the out-of-state series. It was deep mahogany brown, lightly hazy, with a yellowed ring of head and a malty aroma. The taste is roasty with coffee and burnt toast. Thick and chewy, with a complex yet delicate flavor.

+Hub City Russian Imperial Stout

3.7 (4-6-8-4-15)

I also had a taste of a steam beer B.J. has been working on for the seasonal schedule. It has a light fruity nose, a pale yellow color, and almost no head. The flavor is a little sweet with a prominent yeast roughness and fruity hop character.

+Hub City Steam Beer

3.1 (2-6-7-3-13)

From the Burlington Makers of Beer (MOB) I had the cask-conditioned Mildly Interesting ale, an English-style mild. This is a near clear gamboge color with some frothy tan head. The nose is lightly malty and yeasty. It has a cider and caramel flavor, with just a bit of pomegranate.

The Ames Brewers League was one of many to bring an imperial stout aged on wood. Theirs is a Whiskey Barrel Russian Imperial Stout. It’s near black, with hints of brown and a ring of yellowed head. A sweet nose greets you initially, with prominent whiskey and rye. Thick and sweet, the flavor is toasty with a bit of roast and a strong alcohol spike. The sweetness and an astringency linger.

I had the Gruit beer from Cenosilicaphobia Brewers (a homebrew club out of Pella, Iowa). This one was labeled “NO HOPS”, and in red lettering “SOUR”. It is a hazy orange yellow with no head. The nose is lightly citric and a bit tart. The flavor is a clean lactic sour, with orange, grapefruit, and raspberry. There is just a bit of pale malt flavor. It is refreshingly tart, but not too intense.

Old Man River Brewery in McGregor, Iowa, is now bottling under the name Einfach Beer (“simple beer”). I tried both of the beers they brought to the festival (they forgot the Dunkel at home). The Oktoberfest is rich with malt flavor: toast, caramel, and bread. It is amber, almost clear, with a light malt nose. Sweet and smooth, decently authentic.

+Einfach Oktoberfest

3.0 (3-5-7-3-12)

The Helles is a clear straw with generous and creamy white head. The nose is light with corn, somewhat metallic, and a little toasty. The flavor is sulfury corn with a bit of sweetness. Actually remarkably authentic.

+/-Einfach Helles

2.8 (4-5-6-2-11)

2009-09-06-amsPowder Keggers is a women’s beer appreciation group in Des Moines, but they were able to muster up a few selections of homebrew to bring to the festival. (ed. note: this was meant to read “they’re a beer appreciation group, but they brought homebrew anyway” rather than “they’re a women’s group, but they could still figure out how to bring beer”) I tried their Lady Nessa’s Grand Cru. It was a very clear pale amber color with a little white head. The nose was malty with notes of grassy hops. The flavor is malty, with an alcohol tinge and a balancing sweetness. Some earthy hops come through. The body is thick but not cloying.

From the Raccoon River Brewers I tried an Oktoberfest. This one highlighted the difficulties brewing a good festbier. It was an opal amber with some off-white head. A lightly sweet, toast and corn nose led into a flavor of cotton candy and some bread. Sweet and cloying.

From down in Fort Madison the crew at Lost Duck Brewing Company brought a few interesting beers. The one I tried was the Duck ala Orange, an orange-infused lager. This one is light on flavor with an orange character that borders on synthetic. Very sweet, it’s a beer for those who appreciate Leinie’s Sunset Wheat. The redeeming quality is the bitter orange peel that comes through if you look for it.

+/-Lost Duck Duck ala Orange

2.6 (2-4-7-3-10)

From the MUGZ homebrew club I tried Little Brown Winkie. It claimed to be aged on sour cherries. Lightly hazy and reddish brown, the Winkie has some tan head. The nose is strong with pie cherries, I’d say montmorency. There is also just a bit of gym sock. It has a strong sharp pie cherry flavor with some malt. An astringency and sweetness linger.

Well, as usual I don’t think I was there long enough and I don’t think I had enough variety. But all in all it was a pretty good festival.

Oh yeah, and I took a look around the new brewhouse at Millstream. It’s coming along…


Sour Week: Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

The term “grand cru” refers to a brewery’s finest product, and it is no different at Cantillon. After three years of fermentation the very best casks at the brewery museum are selected for the Grand Cru Bruocsella. This organic lambic is unblended, so it is essentially without carbonation and has a rich, mature flavor profile. Cantillon says this beer is intended to be “not drunk but savoured”.

2009-08-18-bruocsellaThe Bruocsella is a lightly hazy golden poppy. Just a hint of activity puts a spindly thread of straw-colored head in a ring around the glass. The nose is quite funky and sour: horse blanket, vinegar, and sour laundry. There is a bit of peanut butter. The aroma is dry and dusty. Like many lambics it is woody, but taken to a new level: it reminds me of the smell of my recorder from elementary school. Notes of cheese and gym sock. Paired with all this pleasantness is a delicate fruit character of mango, papaya, and red delicious apple.

A noticeable acidity leads the flavor charge, turning more potent as it moves back in the mouth. A sharp lactic tart is augmented by a bit of acetic sour. A funky, sweaty barnyard character rides the top of the tongue. Grains come out on the sides with wheat, pale malt, and some huskiness. A bit of a jelly bean fruit character.

The flavor is rich, the sour pungent, and the carbonation nonexistent, but somehow this beer is still quite drinkable. Oh, I’m sorry Jean-Pierre, “savorable”.

++Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon

4.0 (3-9-7-4-17)

What a long, strange week it’s been.

Sour Week: Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten and Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Collaboration beers are all the rage these days: Avery and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (a blend of beers both named “Salvation”), the Brooklyner-Schneider and Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisses (the latter of which I’ve rated), the new fruity and malty Van Twee from the minds of De Proef and Bell’s, as well as Flying Dog’s Collaborator Doppelbock, product of the Open Source Beer Project. I’m sure I’m missing scores of unique ones.

2009-08-17-moatenThe reason I mention this is that tonight the first beer I am trying is a collaboration brew from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, Illinois, and the Urthel Brewery in Ruiselede, Belgium. Named Moaten (after the Flemish word for “friends”), this oak aged sour is brewed in the style of a west Flanders red.

The Moaten pours a lightly hazy rust color with some creamy off-white head. The nose is light and somewhat flat. A bit of caramel malt is evident but a dry, somewhat metallic character intervenes. I can detect hints of fruit, perhaps raspberries and oranges.

The taste is also flat but not as much so, with a flavor really representative of an American amber ale. Malt character is the strongest, toast and bread with some caramel. Some fruit is present, and some oak. Just the slightest hint of an acetic tart. Slightly cloying.

Not a bad beer, just not at all what the label tells me it will be. Anyway I had high hopes but low expectations for this one: both breweries are generally great but neither brews sours regularly.

Moaten is a beer that talks big but doesn’t quite deliver. Next up is a beer that makes no claims to style other than “Swiss ale de garde … aged in oak barrels”. However just one whiff and you know it’s a Flanders-style red.

One of the best non-Belgian sours I know of, the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is brewed by Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Saignelégier, Switzerland. This beer (named after the late brewery cat) is aged in wooden barrels that formerly held one of several wine varietals as well as a few used to age grappa, so the complexity should come naturally. My bottle is a vintage 2007.

2009-08-17-bon-chienA bit of creamy tan head sits atop the turbid, mahogany colored Bon-Chien. Not a lot of head but what is there lasts and leaves an artistic lacing. A rich aroma wafts out: fruit, wood, malt, funk, and sour. Cherries, raisins, and blackberries with a vanilla oak character. A light caramel malt sweetness balances an acidic, cider vinegar nose. Just a bit of sweat adds a funky interest. Great sweet and sour combination.

A dense and difficult flavor. This is a high compliment: the various tastes do not fight for attention, but they do alternately subdue and enhance each other. This beer requires contemplation. At first a sweet maltiness is paired with a significant bitterness. The bitterness is revealed to be an alcohol warming. The maltiness fades and is replaced by a cidery tart. The spicy and sour flavors bring out a strong fruitiness: red apples, cherries, and prunes and a hint of brandy and mulling spices. Some balsamic vinegar rounds out the sour taste. A lively carbonation, healthy tart, and restrained but definitive alcohol flavor.

A tour de force.

++Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

4.6 (4-9-10-4-19)

+/-Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten

3.2 (3-6-7-3-13)

P.S. Thank you Peggy Sue for knocking half my glass of the Bon-Chien all over the desk and keyboard. I literally tried lapping it up before I realized it wasn’t any good anymore. I had to get a new keyboard in the middle of writing my post. Seriously!

Sour Week: Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Mariage ParfaitBrouwerij Boon moved their brewing facilities in the 1980s from their original location where beer had been made since the 1680s. Frank Boon, who has been very helpful to “outsiders” wishing to learn the intricacies of lambic brewing, has owned and operated the brewery since 1978. They produce a faro, a framboise, a kriek, an oude kriek (old or aged kriek), a strong brown, and two gueuzes. Their Oude Gueze is a blend of six month and two year lambics. Their Mariage Parfait is the blend of the best individual casks and is intended as the brewery’s finest product.

As with a number of selections for Sour Week, I obtained this bottle at Lush on Halsted in Chicago. It is a vintage 2003, bottled, I believe, in 2007. In case you were curious, the best before date is 3 Feb 2027, totally beating my previous furthest-in-the-future best-before-date of sometime in 2013 (on a case of Unibroue Quelque Chose).

The Mariage Parfait pours a lightly hazy saffron. The head is a generous creamy long-lasting white.2009-08-16-date The nose is delicate, dry, and dusty, the aroma that of a farmhouse attic, with barnyard character drifting in through an open window. Grass and straw, dust and must, wood, horse, and goat. Subtle, complex, and elegant, the aroma on this beer seems light at first but will fill and tantalize your nose.

Initially fruity, the taste quickly turns strongly tart. A mostly clean lactic acidity is supplemented by shades of acetic. Tastes much like champagne on the middle of the tongue but with kiwi, pineapple, and grapefruit on the front and malt on the sides. Just a bit of horsey and sweaty funk. A hint of husky astringency and hop bitterness. The flavor is bold yet balanced and complex yet approachable. A quite active carbonation offsets the lingering acidity.

This delicate masterpiece is the beer to give to your (crazy) friend who loves wine but thinks all beer is gross.

++Oude Geuze Boon Mariage Parfait

4.5 (4-9-9-4-19)

Note: Both gueuze and geuze are acceptable spellings for the style.

Sour Week: Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Tonight I will have three beers made by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. Verhaeghe is a great example of a west Flanders brewery, producing a number of what they call red-brown ales as well as a kriek, a pils, a few amber ales, and a Christmas beer. Tonight I will have the three sours they make that I can readily get a hold of: Echt Kriekenbier, Vichtenaar, and Duchesse de Bourgogne. Astute readers may remember that the Duchesse was the first sour I rated on this blog, as well as note that it is now the first beer I have tasted twice.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe

First up, the Echt Kriekenbier, which pours a ruby-tinted caramel amber with wisps of tan head. The nose has a delicate sweet and sour character. I notice cherries at first, then sweet malt and apple cider vinegar. A complex blend of wood, smoke, and blackberry jam makes this subtle aroma remarkably intriguing.

The sublime cherry flavor begins on the lips before the beer even enters the mouth. The balancing tart accentuates the fruit. Rich acidic and caramel malt body, a bit cidery. The cherry is supported and enhanced all the way back, remaining prominent even in the tart aftertaste. A serious kriek.

The Vichtenaar is an opalescent deep hazelnut brown with a thick and creamy tan head. It has a rich woody aroma with a strong vinegar character. The nose is also a little fruity (grapes or dates) and a little malty. Just a touch of bourbon.

This beer tastes like a strong brown aged in a balsamic vinegar cask. Rich malty toast and caramel is complimented by major woody and flavors and a mild acetic sour. Creamy and mouth filling but lively and with a lingering tart.

The Duchesse de Bourgogne is a lightly hazy dark ruby brown with a thin, long-lasting, layer of tan foam. A rich balsamic vinegar and acetic nose with significant fruit: raisins and dates but also kiwi and bubblegum. This beer has the thick aroma of an empty port barrel.

The Duchesse is relatively balanced but leans heavily towards sour. Some complexity comes from a rich oak character and fruit: raspberries, blackberries, and raisins. A robust cider vinegar sour and caramel malt sweet hold on for a bit before yielding to a fruity tart that lingers for quite a while.

+Echt Kriekenbier

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)


4.0 (5-7-7-5-16)

+Duchesse de Bourgogne

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)