I usually shy away from beer infused with any fruit puree, but I’m really glad I didn’t shy away from this one.
New Belgium’s Tart Lychee is an American Wild Ale that is part of the brewery’s Lips of Faith series. It’s been around for a few years, but this is the first time I’ve tried it. The beer is made with a combination of New Belgium’s barrel-aged sour beer, cinnamon sticks and lychee fruit, which is native to southeast Asia and, at least from what the Internet says, tastes kind of like a really sweet grape.
I had a pint recently at the Rhino and then bought a bottle at the Good Food Store. The beer is sweet and sour, to me it tastes a little bit like carbonated white grape juice, but it’s tart like lemonade. New Belgium describes it as “very fruity with earthy, nutty undertones. Both sour and sweet combined!” The beer is refreshing and clean and would be great on any of these hot days we’ve had in Missoula recently.
- Matt Pritchard
One of summer’s most sincere pleasures is sitting outside under a yellow umbrella and sipping on something cool and refreshing. If it were me, that would be a tasty beer from some far off land or something fresh and brewed close by.
Luckily in Missoula we have several such places. Last night I decided to peruse the beer menu over at Caffe Dolce. While there are a lot of lighter, summer-style beers available in cans and bottle there, I decided to try a Faro from Lindemans in Belgium. I felt like something a bit wild, and this beer seemed like the perfect choice. And it was good, though a bit on the sweet side for my tastes.
I like my wild, sour beers to be a bit more bold on the wild and sour sides and not so much on the sweet sides. But, I will say that this beer, which has a good sour edge to it without being vinegar or too whiney, would be a great beer for those who aren’t quite up to the level of drinking the big Belgian sours.
The sweet quality of this beer tends to temper down the sour, rather than the other way around, and I find this a bit too cloying. However, I totally see the potential in this beer for a dessert pairing. The sweet forward nature of the beer would pair well with desserts that are not too decadent or rich, but with desserts that have a bit of delicacy to them. Perhaps a fruit tart rather than a cheese cake.
Faro is a blended Lambic that has been chaptalized to increase the alcohol content. You’ll find this beer at Cafe Dolce, and I’m told it has been spotted at Worden’s Market.
I don’t know if it’s like a prayer, but Russian River’s Supplication could be a religious experience
I love wild, sour ales. I can’t stress that enough. I’ve been holding onto bottle of Russian River Brewing Company’s Supplication since Christmas, waiting for the right opportunity to sip on it with a good friend. That day arrived when some dear friends stopped over on their way moving from Madison, Wisconsin, to Tacoma, Washington. After a hot afternoon of walking around Missoula, we retired to the dining room, each with a glass of Supplication to discuss work, family, the future and beer, among other topics.
Classed as an American wild ale, Supplication is a brown ale aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels with three strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus as well as sour cherries. Picking flavors out of this mix is almost overwhelming, but the big sour at the center of this beer is a good place to start. The nose is actually fairly light and fruity with an almost delicate effervescence. Some hints of Jolly Rancher fruit candy are evident, while a hint of something like rain forest vegetation is evident just under the pink fruitiness. It’s not quite dank like mushrooms, but it has a rain-smothered vegetation quality to it.
The taste is almost overwhelmingly sour at first, but it gives way to something bright and complex. I’d be inclined to attribute this to the Pinot Noir barrel aging, but I don’t have any way to quantify how much of that comes through.
My drinking companion commented that the beer was actually light and refreshing for a warm day. I had to agree, but part of me thinks we may have enjoyed the beer a little colder than it should’ve been served. Waiting for my beer to warm up a bit took some patience, but that was when I was able to discern the more complex elements of the beer. The wood didn’t come through as much as I would’ve thought, but some of that structure and complexity must surely come from the wood.
When warmed, the brown ale comes through more, and I have to say this is one of the more enjoyable Belgian styles that I’ve enjoyed. I’ve not always been a big fan of brown ales, Belgian or otherwise, but this seems to hold the fruit so well.
If not a prayer itself, I’ll likely practice a little supplication in hopes of finding another bottle of this soon. I purchased this one at John’s Market in Portland, Oregon.
Douglas Brown, of the Denver Post, puts the question out as the Boulder Sour Fest approaches. And I for one, can’t help but think that sour and our American love of hops, might intermingle in some beautiful display of oneness. But if I had to pick one over the other, I’d say that American sours will rise to prominence in the next decade. They may not hold the top spot for long, as some other styling, or, even better, a new brewing technique or flavor or combo of all of it takes its place, but sour beers will rise in our hearts and minds.
I’d give an organ to be able to attend the Boulder Sour Fest, but it was not meant to be. But if this becomes as big as I think it will, I’ll do my best to be there next year. In the meantime, any of my Boulder friends going to the festival? If so, you want to be a corespondent?
At any rate, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the evolution of sour beer in America.
Well, that’s not entirely true, but once you’ve been converted to the sheer pleasure of sour beers, you’ll never leave them again. I did entertain thoughts off leaving after drinking a particularly funky Rodenbach Grand Cru one time, but I have recovered my relationship with sour beers admirably, and we proceed hand-in-hand through this good life.
As for you, if you haven’t been exposed to the beauty of this style of beer, New Belgium Brewing Co. offers a perfect solution in the form of LaFolie, a wood-aged sour brown ale that might be the most delightful taste experience you could give your mouth right now.
My friend Beau brought a bottle over for Super Bowl Sunday, and we sipped it on the front porch while enjoying a pipe of some new tobacco that he’d brought back from a Spokane smoke shop. We smoked an English blend called High C, and both of us were astounded at how the beer and tobacco paired. It was as if they’d had a long-lost romance, and their love was rekindled that evening in our glasses, in the air around us and on our taste buds.
Maybe that’s too graphic, so I’ll break it down for you. The LaFolie is a medium sour ale with some up-front fruitiness, most notably in a green-apple flavor and some bready yeast flavors that made me think of apple pie for some reason. The tobacco was mild and offered a bit of light leather and some smoked peat that just seemed to embellish the sour notes on the beer.
Check out the brewery’s LaFolie page for great food pairing ideas.
This beer has been available at Worden’s Market in the past. Next time you stop in, ask them to order some of the 2010 variety, as the brewery has changed the recipe slightly.
Finally, a sessionable sour ale from Belgian. I think I found this at The Good Food Store a few weeks ago, and I’m really glad I did. I only hope I can get more now that I’ve actually gotten around to tasting it.
Many Belgian imports are dumbed-down versions of their REAL sour beers, and many of the REAL sour beers are REAL expensive or REALLY high in alcohol or both.
But pucker up if you’re not a sour beer fan. This one packs a punch, and it’s awesome if you’re a fan. After having some friends try it, I realized it’s definitely not for all tastes.
Ciao for now,