New Belgium 3 Floyds Lips of Faith Grätzer Ale

New_Belgium_Three_Floyds_GratzerBrewer: New Belgium, Fort Collins CO/3 Floyds, Munster IN
Style: Gratzer (Smoked Wheat Ale)
Alc/Vol: 4.5%

Description: A collaboration between the New Belgium Brewery of Colorado and 3 Floyds of Indiana, this seasonally-appropriate, Halloween-themed ale resurrects the age-old Polish style of smoked wheat ale that has nearly gone extinct. The brew is fashioned using oak-smoked wheat and Midnight Wheat, which is then fermented using a wild strain of top fermenting yeast that gives it a slightly sour flavor.

Tasting Notes: Another interesting sour from the Lips of Faith series (and of course their friends at 3 Floyds), this beer is also a style that I was previously unfamiliar with. And though the flavor was a bit unusual and took some getting used to, I ultimately enjoyed its particular strengths. Like a stout, it starts with dark, roasted malts and notes of coffee. Like a Rauchbier, it has that smokey aged-whiskey flavor with a peaty finish. And like a wheat, it has a clean, refreshing profile that buoys up the middle. I was also impressed with the effort made by these two breweries. Much like Driftwood’s recent experiments with the Leipzig-style of Gose, this beer is an example of the power of craft brewing to bring old and venerated styles back from the brink.

Appearance: Black, opaque, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Roasted malt nose, hint of smoke, espresso, stout-like
Taste: Toasted malt, tang, clean, giving way to smoky flavor, notes of peat
Aftertaste: Lingering peat flavor, smoke and malt flavor
Overall: 8/10

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Steamworks Rollin’ Golden Belgian Ale

steamworks_rollingoldenBrewer: Steamworks Brewery, Vancouver, BC, and New Belgium Brewery, CO
Style: Belgian-Style Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%

Description: A collaboration ale produced in tandem by Steamworks and the New Belgium Brewery, this Golden Belgian Ale is a very eclectic mix. It starts with Pilsner and Cara 45 malts and then bitters them with Stryian Celeia and Stryian Golding hops. The mix is then given additional flavor from Ancho chillies, De Arbol chillies, and Szechuan peppercorns, and fermented with Belgian yeast.

Tasting notes: While this beer is very consistent with a good Saison, it also packs in influences that range from the traditional Belgian, German and British, and Slovenian. What I immediately noticed was the powerful ginger spice, coriander and yeast. But in time, the Pilsner malts, peppery notes and spiciness really came through. A very interesting combination, and one that brings together two of my favorite breweries.

Appearance: Deep golden/amber, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Light malt, Belgian yeast, coriander and mixed spice
Taste: Light malt, immediate burst of ginger spice, yeast, coriander and hot chillies
Aftertaste: Lingering malt, yeast, and spice notes, refreshing and spicy
Overall: 8.5/10

New Belgium La Folie 2014 Sour Brown Ale

LaFolie2014Brewer: New Belgium Brewery, Fort Collins, CO
Style: Oud Bruine
Alc/Vol: 7.0%
IBUs: 18

Description: La Folie, French for ‘the folly’, is part of New Belgium’s Sour series, which celebrates a distinctive Belgian brewing tradition. Using wild, naturally occurring yeasts, this brown ale develops a natural sour flavor loaded with lactic acid. The ale is then aged in oak barrels for one to three years before being bottled.

Tasting Notes: As Oud Bruines go, this beer was exceptionally dry and tart. And consistent with this style, it smacked of tartness and sour flavor, and had some serious fruit esters. These called to mind green apples, sour cherries, apricots; and of course, plenty of oak tannins.

Appearance:  Deep ruby red, cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sour malts, sour cherry, plum, apple, oak
Taste:  Immediate burst of lactic acid, tart green apple, sour cherry, apricot, oak
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness and oak flavor, dry fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

New Belgium Trippel

trippel_lBrewer: New Belgium Brewery, CO
Style: Trippel
Alc/Vol: 7.8%

Description: Brewed in the Belgian style of extra strong ales, this Trippel is bottle conditioned and fermented for an extended period of time and spiced with coriander. The end result is a yeasty pale ale that contains notes of pear, apple, and ginger spice alongside a subtle hint of spice.

Tasting Notes: I will admit that I was expecting a bit more in the way of malt and oaky flavor. By comparison, this beer was lighter and more subtle, but no less pleasing or appealing. The notes of apple, pear and ginger were a nice surprise, and played quite well to the smooth malty flavor and mild spice notes. Yet another winner from this venerable brewery!

Appearance: Deep golden, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Rich malt, yeast, hint of oak, notes of coriander and ginger
Taste: Smooth malt, mild tang, yeast, pear and apple esters, hint of coriander spice
Aftertaste: Lingering malt bitterness, spice, yeast
Overall: 9/10

New Belgium Rewind India Pale Ale

New-Belgium-Rewind-India-Pale-Ale1Brewer: New Belgium, Fort Collins, CO
Style: India Pale Ale
Alc/Vol: 7%
IBUs: 64.5

Description: As part of their Hop Kitchen series, the Rewind IPA is brewed and named in honor of the brewery’s roots and the heyday of craft brewing during the early 90’s. Maris Otter and Special B malts give this beer its malt base, while Horizon, Willamette and Galena hops provide the hop flavoring. 

Tasting Notes: As India Pale Ales go, this beer is quite different, being rather subtle and complex at the same time. Rather than the sweet and coarse profile one typically expects from an American IPA, the Rewind has slight, subtle, and mildly syrupy malts. The hop pallet is also quite complex, combining earthy tones, grassiness, and traces of orchard fruit. I’m tempted to say it’s more akin to a British IPA, but its more of a standalone example really, and a quite interesting one.

Appearance: Deep amber, clear, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Mild malts, grassy and floral hops, notes of peach and orchard fruit
Taste: Subtle malt flavor, slightly syrupy, apricots, peaches, grassy, earthy hops
Aftertaste: Relatively smooth finish, lingering hop flavor and mild fruit
Overall: 8.5/10

Le Terroir Wet Hopped Sour Ale

LeTerroir_lNew Belgium Brewing has been on my radar ever since my brother-in-law introduced me to their Fat Tire Amber Ale. Years later, I find myself struggling to get my hands on the many, many beers in both their regular lineup and their seasonal releases. Lucky for me, their Le Terroir just happened to be available in my locality, and just in time for my birthday beer collection! And since I’m becoming such a fan of sours, it seemed like the perfect thing to mark the occasion!

The term Terroir means “of the territory”, a French term that is often used to describe wines by region. However, this term is just as applicable to beer, seeing as how Belgium is so renowned for regional styles. Consistent with a sour, this beer is made using wild yeast strains that cause lactic acid to accumulate, and then age it in oak barrels for three years. The end result of all this is a beer that is delightfully tart, fruity, and quite earthy. It is also wet-hopped using Amarillo and Citra varieties, resulting in a nice herbal infusion on top of the general sourness.

Appearance: Golden orange, slightly cloudy, good foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Notes of peach, passion fruit, sour cherry, oak, apricots
Taste: Burst of sour cherry and dried fruits, oaky, earthy undertones, hint of bitterness
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness giving way to dry herbs
Overall: 10/10

Another brilliant sour! It’s really too bad I didn’t get to try this beer last year, as it would be the perfect addition to my Best Beers of 2013 list. Oh well, there’s always next year I guess 😉

Lazy Boy Belgian Style Golden Ale

LazyboyGuess which brewery’s products just made it into my neck of the woods? Well, as the title line would suggest, that would be Lazy Boy Brewing from Everett, Washington. Yes, the same state that brought us the Pike, Pyramid, Elysian Fields, and Odin breweries seems to have sent yet another of its craft brewers north of the border. And looking for something new, I decided to get my hands on a sample. And since the choice was between this and their IPA, and the fact that I was in the mood for something lighter and more conducive to hot weather, I grabbed a bottle of their Belgian Golden.

lazyboy_belgianAnd I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. Given the description and strength (8.7% alc/vol), I expected a lightly colored ale with syrupy, strong malts with that distinctive nose and aftertaste that comes from Belgian yeast. What I got was in fact a strong, sour ale, reminiscent of a Flanders Red thanks to the addition of that specialized yeast that brings out a beer’s lactic acid. And while not as potently sour as some of the Flanders I have come to know and love (the many beers that make up Driftwood’s Bird of Prey series), that does not diminish the overall impact it had on my taste buds. In fact, in many ways, it led to all-around more pleasurable drinking experience, since the lighter taste was more conducive to hot weather drinking. Yes, sour, tart, but ultimately clean and refreshing, this beer was an all-around pleasure!

Appearance: Deep amber/orange, cloudy, medium foam retention and carbonation
Nose: Sour ale notes, lactic acid, mild yeast and malts
Taste: Immediate burst of lactic acid, notes of sour cherry and raspberry
Aftertaste: Lingering tartness, clean and refreshing
Overall: 9/10

Yes, a most interesting combination; a sour golden ale. But I think it’s fair to say this beer just became a current favorite of mine. Here’s hoping the rest of the brewery’s lineup, which includes the usual suspects plus a few very interesting customers – a Christmas Brown and another Strong Belgian – is just as good. And here’s hoping it will be available in my neck of the woods too!