Tag Archives: New Belgium

Jolly Pumpkin’s Baudelaire Saison (The Sour Sessions)

Brew it and they will drink.

Mixed-culture fermentation has a long history in North America stretching back to the days prior to Prohibition. Brewers with British roots arriving in the great port cities of the east fanned out across the continent, some of them continuing the tradition of tart, oak-aged stock ales. German immigrants also left their mark, not only in the form of Pabst, Coors, and Anheuser-Busch. In the late nineteenth century, Baltimore was a thriving center of Berliner Weisse production.

Alas, none of these tart and sour styles survived the assault of Prohibition, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that indigenous mixed-culture beers began to reappear, ever so cautiously at first.New Belgium - La Folie (www-newbelgium-com) Michael Tonsmiere, author of American Sour Ales, credits Kinney Baughman of Cottonwood Grille and Brewery (North Carolina) with the first post-Prohibition sour beers –– beers that were, incidentally, the result of a fortuitous accident. By 1999, New Belgium had released La Folie under the stewardship of Peter Bouckaert, formerly of the venerable Brouwerij Rodenbach in Belgium. Right around the same time on the other side of the Rockies, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company had just acquired his first two Chardonnay barrels that would hold his first barrel-aged beer: the Brett-spiked Temptation. But tart and sour beers still constituted a mere trickle of the rising craft beer tide. As late as 2002, the Great American Beer Festival attracted but a handful of entrants upon introducing its first sour beer category: fifteen all told.

What a difference a decade-and-change makes. When Ron Jeffries founded Jolly Pumpkin in 2004, he was among the first of a generation of brewers to focus exclusively on mixed fermentation in conjunction with barrel-aging.IMG_1987 Nowadays it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that sour beers and wild ales are nearly as popular among the craft beer cognoscenti as the ubiquitous American-style IPA, with breweries like Jester King and Crooked Stave having taken up positions alongside Jolly Pumpkin.

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For this first edition of the Sunday Sour Sessions, I dug into my consumable archives for a bottle from Jolly Pumpkin’s Baudelaire Beer series: the iO Saison brewed with rose hips, rose petals, and hibiscus. I first encountered this intriguing beer at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, but it wasn’t until I visited the Jolly Pumpkin Café and Brewery in Ann Arbor this past August that I came across this rare gem again. The bottle’s back label declares that beer is “an art form that excites our senses and stirs our imagination.” Inspired by Baudelaire’s words –– “A breath of air from the wings of madness” –– the good brewers of Jolly Pumpkin resolved to follow their creative muse to “a romantic world, dimly lit by distant memory.” The result of their poetic inquiry is a whimsical beer that starts with the effervescence and crisp lime-pepper bitterness of a Saison, and ends as a delicately floral sour beer that will pair extremely well with most any season.

Substitute the dim lighting of distant memory for a dimly-lit room set for dinner, et voilà! A tolerably poetic backdrop that flatters this luminescent amber-orange beer with its billowing ivory foam cap blushing o-so-slightly pink:IMG_2621 an intimation of the rose and hibiscus to come. Unlike so many beers in which the special ingredients either lurk in the shadows offstage or overpower the ensemble, the floral performers in this chamber orchestra play their solo pieces elegantly, leaving enough space for the wild yeast’s pineapple-mango fruit to register its presence with a firm clarity. The hibiscus tartness harmonizes well with a citrusy acidity that soars above the nutmeg-spiced honeyed malt notes, building to Saison-like lime-pepper crescendo before subsiding into mellow reminiscences of freshly-mown fields.

Three Tankards.

Cellar Notes

The bottle that inspired these musings bears a palimpsest-like date stamp that appears to read “02/16/2014.” Laced as it is with Brettanomyces, the dry and elegant iO Saison is a beer that you can lay down for a spell to see how it develops. I purchased my bottle in August and cellared it for six months. Drinking date: 01/24/2015.

Further Reading

Michael Tonsmeire, American Sour Beers: Innovative Techniques for Mixed Fermentations (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2014).

Related Tempest Articles

A Twist of Sour: New Belgium’s 2013 La Folie and Verhaeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne

Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

A Rodenbach Grand Cru in the Fridge, or a Six-Pack of Lesser Beer in the Fridge?

Gose Gone Wild: Anderson Valley, Bayrischer Bahnhof, Choc, and Westbrook

Images

La Folie label: www.newbelgium.com

Jolly Pumpkin tap handles (Ann Arbor) and iO Saison label: photos by F.D. Hofer

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

A Twist of Sour: New Belgium’s 2013 La Folie and Verhaeghe’s Duchesse de Bourgogne

New Belgium BrewingPeter Bouckaert of New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO) is no stranger to sour beers. Growing up in Belgium, beer was a staple at meal time, and he had his first taste of Rodenbach at age thirteen while a member of the local scouts chapter. Relates Bouckaert in a recent interview, “We were from that area, and it’s a very accessible beer. It’s kind of sour and sweet, so for kids, it’s actually a very good beer.” Bouckaert eventually went on to work for Rodenbach in the 1980s before making the move state-side to New Belgium in the mid-1990s. By 1999, he had New Belgium’s foeder cellar up and running (now some sixty-four barrels strong), and had produced what was, at the time, quite a remarkable beer for a North American palate as-yet unaccustomed to sour beers: La Folie. A sour brown ale, La Folie is blended from different batches that spend between one and three years in French oak barrels.

Back in Belgium, the Verhaeghe family of Vichte has been brewing since the 1500s, originally in a farmhouse brewery, and in their present site since 1880. Casks from that time are, reportedly, still in use to mature the sweet-and-sour style of the West Flanders region. At 6.2% ABV, Duchesse de Bourgogne is the strongest beer in the lineup, and straddles the Oud Bruin/Flanders Red Ale style. Mary Duchess of BurgundyThough the vinous Flanders Red Ale style is sometimes referred to as the “Burgundy of Belgium,” the reference to Burgundy in this case has nothing to do with wine. Rather, the name of the beer recalls the brief reign of Duchess Mary of Burgundy, only daughter of Charles the Bold. (Modern-day Flanders was, in the late1400s, part of the Duchy of Burgundy.)

Now for the beers, both of which are nearly identical in appearance (clear ruby-brown with mahogany hues), the only difference being the longevity and colour of the head – fleeting in the case of La Folie, and a shade of brown darker. If the initial aromas of La Folie are redolent of tart cherry with a hint of hay, wood, and green apple, the Duchesse is more wine-like and caramel-malt accented, reminiscent at times of an aged balsamic vinegar. Both present a degree of “funk”: La Folie’s is grassy, and Duchesse exhibits the slightest trace of “barnyard” Brett. La Folie is the more food-friendly of the two, while Duchesse – also fine with food, but more robust and sweeter than La Folie – lends itself to after-dinner sipping. Both increase in complexity if allowed to open up. (Start around 50F and go from there.)

La Folie 2013La Folie is also the more sour of the two. The secondary aromatics of nuts, sherry, caramel, and dark bread are countered by a mouth-puckering bright lemon-lime acidity on the palate. Dry and playfully light-bodied, the sourness takes on a green apple-like quality before giving way to a long cherry finish. At 7%, the ABV of the 2013 edition is a notch higher than in other vintages.

With time in the glass, the Duchesse develops slightly more complexity than La Folie. Brown sugar sweetness tinged with maple syrup combine with subtle vanilla oak notes, and all of these meld harmoniously with the fruity acetic character of the aromas. Rich and creamy, the wood aging brings together a mellow yet pronounced sweet-and-sour ensemble evocative, by turns, of blueberry, chocolate, and plum not unlike a full-bodied red wine.

Both of these beers are superb sours. Pick La Folie if you want something that pairs with a wider variety of foods (its tang would make a nice match with goat cheese). Overall, though, I give Duchesse de Bourgogne the slightest edge.

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Related Tempest Articles:

Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

A Rodenbach Grand Cru in the Fridge, or a Six-Pack of Lesser Beer in the Fridge?

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

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Sources:

Michael Jackson, Great Beer Guide (London: Dorling Kindersley, 2000).

Garrett Oliver, The Brewmaster’s Table (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).

New Belgium Brewing (Tour: October 2013).

Images:

Mary, Duchess of Burgundy: Wikipedia

©2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.