Atlanta has somehow become a craft beer mecca with some of the greatest beer bars in the world. This is a tribute to the beers and the bars.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sour beers, part 3

This time I hit some sour beers from outside of Belgium, including 3 variations of a Flemish style sour and a sour stout.

Haandbryggeriet Haandbakk: This was the real surprise of the bunch.  This is a Norwegian sour.  Beers similar to Flemish Oud Bruins had been brewed in Norway for centuries but had gone out of style and this was the first attempt at a Norwegian sour in over 100 years.  It was aged in used burgundy wine barrels for 18 months before bottling.  This is as good or better than any Flemish sour I've had. Malt is nicely rich, and faintly sweet with hints of bitter cocoa.  There's a dominant acetic acid sour, leather, slight barnyard funk, and faint apple.  This completely dominates your mouth, the acidity burns your throat a little, and there's an extremely long finish.  This and Panil Bariquee Riserva are probably the most complex sours I've had.

Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura: A sour stout?  That may sound odd, but historically there were actually a lot of sour stouts, porters, and other British ales.  Brettanomyces (the funky, wild yeast that is one of the main beer souring agents) is actually Greek for British fungus because of it's use in British beers.  Guinness is 3% sour beer, though it's sourness comes from a lactic acid bacteria. Madrugada Obscura is actually a Belgian style stout.  Flavors are cherry, chocolate, and nice sourness (lactic and a little Brett funk) with a dry ending.  Honestly, this is billed as a Belgian style stout, but I taste more Guinness in this than any Belgian stout I've had, possibly because the Belgian stouts I've had weren't sour.  This is worth trying.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja: This is a fairly standard oud bruin, though a good example.  I taste a little brown sugar, faint apple and lemon, mild Brett, and not much acetic acid.  Overall this is an easy drinking sour.

New Belgium La Folie: I loved the first few sips of this.  The acidity really catches your attention, there's mild vinegar, and you taste some of the wood that is was aged in.  Les and I split a bottle of this before we went out for Valentine's Day and I actually struggled a little to finish my half.  The acidity starts to become overwhelming.  We commiserated about the fact that when The Porter had this once it went quickly and we didn't get to try it on tap.  After we ate we headed over to The Porter and serendipitously there it was, so we each ordered one.  Again, it started great, but it's so astringent it became hard to drink.  The Porter was serving pints of it, and I really think all anybody would want would be 8 oz, but at least it was pretty cheap.  I like the beer, but I didn't bother finishing mine.  I have mixed feelings about the drinkability.  One reason I like sours is that they have much more dense flavors, so even though they tend to be lower alcohol they are still sipping beers.  I think this one goes a little over the edge though in terms of unpleasant acidity.  It's worth trying, but split it.

One last reminder, The Porter has its Flemish sour class this Wednesday.  I'm going to be playing with a Beatles tribute band at Smith's Olde Bar so I won't be able to make it (my day job is a trumpet player), but if you can you should check it out.  It's $25.

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