Monday, July 19, 2010

Oak Aged Sour Brown Ales — New Belgium vs. Russian River

New Belgium
2010 La Folie

(Aged in French oak barrels)
ABV 6%

Deep, dark, reddish-brown.
Sharp, intense sour cherry mixed with some burnt caramel and barnyard funk.
Creamy, rich and intensely sour with some subtle creamy woodiness.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced):
Sour cherries with some chalky tannins.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Russian River Supplication
(Aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries)
ABV 7%

Hazy orange.
Floral and perfumy with some pumpkin pie spices and a ton of funkiness.
Not nearly as sour as NB, creamy tart lemon.
Hops vs. Malts (Hoppy, Malty or Balanced): N/A
Bitter (but not like hop bitterness) and slightly metallic.
Overall (Fantastic, Good, Mediocre or Bad):

Split decision
: Both of these sours are highly regarded among beer connoisseurs so it was bound to be a good fight. As expected, they both assaulted our senses with aromas and flavors that are very different than your average malt/hop combination. After 10 grueling rounds, Ellen chose the Supplication and I chose the La Folie.

For Ellen it came down to sourness (disclaimer: she is not a big fan of sour beers).
The La Folie is wicked, face-contorting, tongue-stinging, sour! The Supplication exhibits mild sourness by comparison, so it is not surprising that she chose it.

While I agreed that the La Folie was more sour, I thought that the burnt caramel and wood notes complemented the sourness and created a seriously delicious combination.
I also detected some metallic notes in the finish of the Supplication that Ellen wasn't as sensitive to.

One thing that stood out to both of us was that the La Folie had sour cherry notes even though it didn't spend any time aging with cherries, while the Supplication displayed no cherries despite being aged with them. Curious.

If you haven't tried a sour beer, you owe it to yourself and your palate to do so. A good sour will totally obliterate your perception about what a beer can be.

In the interest of full disclosure to satisfy the FTC’s law, this battle features a sample bottle received from the New Belgium Brewery.

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