Tag Archives: Wild Ale

New Brew Friday

Happy Holidays to all my fellow beer nerds, I hope Santa treated you well bringing a sack full of new and interesting beers for you to share with friends and family.

This new brew Friday is somewhat special for me because I finally got to drink a beer I have been looking forward to for quite some time now, Lustrum Wild Sour Ale from Driftwood Brewery.

Anyone who knows me or has ever read this blog will know that I am to sour beer what hop heads are to Double IPA’s. To find out that one of my favourite BC breweries was trying their hand at my most favouritest style was exciting.

Lustrum

Here is the description from Driftwood: “Aged for over a year in French Oak this blood red vinous beast holds depth of color, flavor and aroma unparalleled in any beer we have brewed thus far. Fermented with locally sourced wild yeast and a copious load of black currants, Lustrum will be enjoyed on many levels!”

And here is mine: Lustrum pour a beautiful deep plum red colour with tons of reddish tinged soapy head that really stuck around. Big dried fruit nose with an equal helping of funky yeastiness. Tart at the front then giving way to an oaky character and some sweetness. The currant really dominates giving this beer an almost lambic like quality meets red wine reminding me of Unibroue Cassis or Lindeman Cassis. A dry beer that finishes with some tartness but also a bitter quality. To me this beer tastes a bit young, like the flavours have not really blended together, and I think it could have benefited from further aging. I found the currant taste over-powering at times and also a bit cloying while the yeastiness seemed a bit too up front. Personally, I like my sours to be quite tart and very dry. Overall it felt like a bit too much was going on in this beer at once making it feel like a bit of an identity crisis.

Nonetheless to see BC brewers delving into sour/wild ale territory is quite exciting and hopefully this is the beginning of something big. #BCneedsabarrelhouse

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New Brew Friday

This beer had me written all over it.

I was down at Elizabeth Station browsing the seemingly endless beer options when I came across a lovely bottle called Lolita from Goose Island Brewing. Large format bottle with a nice label and not much in the way of a description of the contents …okay I’m intrigued. My faithful companion Beer Buddy let me know Lolita is a wild raspberry ale with enough positive feedback that I knew this little temptress would be hitching a ride back across the border.

Lolita

Lolita, like her name-sake, is an effervescent, seemingly sweet pink creation that hides a wicked tartness just below the surface. Lolita pours a uber-clear, earthy rose colour with so much carbonation you would think you poured a sparkling wine. Lots of sweet raspberry on the nose but not in that artificial kind of way more like fresh-picked barely ripe berries and also some funkiness. Light bodied but retaining lots of depth due to the Belgian character, which brings in some spiciness. As you drink the berry remains at the front of the palate but the tartness dominates the remainder of your swallow, oaky overtones remind you that this one spent some time in the wood. A very dry finish rounds this beer off.

Overall I really liked this one. A sour beer that is actually sour but at the same time not a one-trick-pony. There are many tastes going on in this beer that should satisfy just about ever beer geek out there but take warning Lolita will set you back around $20/bottle.


Beer with (insert current foodie fad)

Beer is an interesting beverage, at its essence it is somewhat akin to oatmeal simple, comforting, comprising of a few basic ingredients and open to any manner of sexing it up with the addition of any combination of foodstuffs.

Beer, in this analogy, is like the tabula rasa of the alcoholic beverage world.

Unlike vintners or distillers, brewers really embrace this versatility and seem unabashedly willing to add pretty much anything to their brews. I have seen mushroom beer, spearmint beer, acai beer, beet beer, chocolate mint beer, maple bacon beer and the list goes on and on and on.

In past posts I have written (perhaps ad nauseum) about my reservations over this endless experimentation with craft beer but somewhat hypocritically that does not always deter me from picking up a beer that seems to be an irresistible collision of flavours.

 

This was the case with Bourbon Peach American Wild Ale from Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer. Oh yes, you read that right. This is a wild ale brewed with kombucha tea and peach then fermented with bourbon barrels, and did I mention it is organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free and bottle conditioned? I can hear the collective gasps emanating from foodies everywhere.

 

Unity Vibration

 

For those who do not keep abreast of the latest foodie objects of affection, kombucha tea is a living brew made from friendly (not adversarial) bacteria, sugar, water and tea. Like most foodie foods it is actually a rather ancient drink that has come back into the limelight. As kombucha tea is a fermented beverage a minimal amount of alcohol is the result of the production and you just may get i.d’d for the equivalent of a non-alcoholic beer.

But enough of that let’s get back to the beer.

 

Bourbon Peach American Wild Ale

 

Bourbon Peach American Wild Ale 7% ABV

Bourbon Peach American Wild Ale pours a very pale straw colour, a lot of cloud and very little white head that almost immediately dissipates. As would be expected with a living beverage there is an obscene amount of carbonation. There is a sour funkiness to the nose, typical of kombucha tea, but at the same time there is an underlying sweetness and a slight caramel note. First couple of sips, this ale tastes like a peach cooler, bubbly, sweet and light-bodied. As you drink, this ale changes to a smoother almost buttery like mouthfeel. At the same time there is tartness that cuts through all the other tastes reminding you that this is indeed a wild ale at heart. The peach-ness of this ale is impressive; generally, I find peach to be a flavour that does not come through strongly but it really does here. The finish alludes to the bourbon barrels imparting a bit of strength to this wild ale and a sweetness. Overall an interesting, if challenging, take on a wild ale.

Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay this ale is that I have honestly never had a beer that tastes quite like this. In fact, if you did not specifically tell me this was a beer I may have guessed it was some type of cocktail or beer blend. For those that like to drink outside the box I highly recommend giving this beer a try!


Baby, why are you so Sour?

Somewhat contrary to my fellow beer geeks, when I first started exploring craft beer one of the more challenging styles quickly emerged as my favourite and that style is soured beer. I  know this category of beer is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and in fact many people are initially turned off by the often over-powering tartness of  a gueze or an oud bruin but if you think you are not a fan of wild ales you really do not know what you are missing.

 

Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House

Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House

 

Sour beer is technically not a style in and of itself, rather it is a process of using bacterial infection to impart tartness while fermenting and/or beer, as such under this broad category there is a range of flavours and, well, sourness from sweet and fruity lambics, to the deep and rich sour brown ales, to the accessible Flanders red ales, to the straight lambics, which offer no apologies for their tart kick.

Historically, lambic beers (a style of beer brewed with aged hops and a high proportion of unmalted wheat) were spontaneously fermented. That is to say you basically do the opposite of everything you learned in homebrew school and intentionally infect your wort with some of the many microscopic critter floating around in the air. The different resultant bacterial infections all work to ferment the beer while it ages in wooden barrels (the wooden barrel being a natural haven for microbes). Ensuring consistency is near impossible for the sour beer brewer so the resultant batches are blended to achieve the desired tartness levels.

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, when Lindemans expanded their brewery they took a portion of their old wall and bolted it in their new building in order to preserve their signature mix of beneficial bugs.

 

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In modern times, the souring of beer is less by chance i.e. opening a window and hoping for the best but really not by much.

Bacterial agents like lactobacillus, brettanomyces and pediococcus are systematically introduced to the fermentation process; however, the outcome remains somewhat unpredictable and the time commitment to brew a sour beer is significant compared pretty much any other beer style think years versus months. Blending remains the most viable means to ensure the sourness of your beer is at a level that is drinkable.

 

Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales

Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales

 

Once the sole domain of dedicated Belgian brewers devoted to the art of brewing sour beers, wild ales are carving out an impressive niche in Europe and North America. Russian River, Cascade Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin and Epic Ales are all making a name for themselves in pursuit of excellent sourness.

A little more north Oud Bruin from Yaletown Brewing Company and Driftwood’s Bird of Prey Flanders Red are showing Canadian brewers are also getting on the sour bandwagon.

 

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Is sour beer the next big thing in the craft beer world? Well, not to self-promote (too much) I have to say I saw this one coming for quite sometime now. I even wrote a post called ‘Love is a Sour Delight’ back in February of 2011 espousing the wonder that is sour beer. If you require further confirmation, you just need walk into any decent beer store and observe the number of barrel-aged, wild and wine-blended beers now on the market.

As we move into warmer weather I urge my fellow beer geeks to crack open a bottle of sour beer on a warm summer night and tell me this isn’t one of the best affirmations they have ever had that craft beer will one day rule the world.

 


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