Tag Archives: sour beers

Tempest’s Beer and Travel Highlights from 2015-2016

So much to do, so little time. With all those beers I’m sure you’ve been searching out and drinking over the course of the year, one or two Tempest articles may have slipped you by. Not to worry! On the occasion of Tempest’s third year traveling to far-flung places to bring you the best beer experiences, here’s a short round-up of highlights.img_1258

(Click here for the updated version of my ongoing Index of articles and posts over the years.)

Occasionally I’d manage to find a small sliver of time between friends coming to visit and excursions to far-flung parts of Europe combining hiking, cycling, and the pursuit of all things zymurgical. The result? Much of what I wrote between November 2015 and now came out in bursts and took the form of series. I did set down a handful of stand-alone pieces, a few of which I’ll list before introducing the highlights of the serial articles I wrote:

A World of Stouts for Your Weekend is an exploration of stouts beyond the British Isles that’ll keep you warm on any non-summer night. Rich brews from Japan, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Sri Lanka.

Beer Travel off the Beaten Track: Austria’s Innviertel. Few might think otherwise, but the Central European beer scene encompasses more than Bavaria and Bohemia.img_6917 For the intrepid beer traveler, the Innviertel of Upper Austria is a gem of bucolic scenery, colourful towns, and top-notch breweries that don’t see wide distribution.

Say No to Style Loyalty. We live in an era of unprecedented beer selection, yet a number of venerable styles currently on the books are on the verge of extinction. Mild Ale, anyone? Perhaps the most salient piece I wrote all year. Pour yourself a glass of a beer you’ve never had and give it a read.

Wild-Fermented Beer in Belgium

Of Coolships, Cobwebs, and Cantillon––Need I say more about this iconic brewery? Maybe just one thing: go there at least once in your life. This post was by far my most popular post of 2016, but be sure to check out all the other fermented delights that Belgium has to offer while you’re there. And the chocolate.

Where the Wild Beers Are: Brussels and Flemish Brabant––Rent a bike just outside of Brussels and follow along to breweries such as Drie Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, and Boon. “Where the Wild Beers Are” also has plenty of suggestions about where to get your sour funk in Brussels when you’re done with your ride.img_7928

The Oktoberfest Series

O’ zapft is! These may well be the only three words of German you need to know beyond bier and prost, but you might also be wondering about the rich history of the world’s largest beer festival. “O’ zapft is!” sets the stage.oktoberfest-hofbrautent-fdh

From Horse Races to Beer Steins: Oktoberfest Since 1810––Did you know that Oktoberfest started its two-hundred year history as a horse race in honour of a royal wedding? It wasn’t until the latter half of the nineteenth century that Oktoberfest started to resemble the festival we all know and love today. Learn more about how beer tents supplanted “beer castles,” and how the golden Festbier eventually replaced Märzen on the Theresienwiese in these two articles:

Where Did All the Märzen Go? Provisioning Oktoberfest Imbibers over the Centuries

Autumn in a Glass: Märzen, Oktoberfest Beer, and Vienna Lager

The Vienna Beer Garden Series

Exploring Vienna’s Beer Gardens––Vienna: city of classical music, café culture, and stunning architecture. Vienna is also home to a rich but understated beer garden scene. Learn about the history of Vienna’s beloved Prater before heading to the Schweizerhaus for a beer and roasted pork knuckle.

Vienna, City of Beer Gardens––When you’re done with all the museums and sights that Vienna has to offer, hop on Vienna’s superb public transportation network and head out in search of Vienna’s vibrant shades of green.

Up next: Tempest’s Beerscapes of 2016.

© 2016 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All rights reserved.

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Three Vintages of Goose Island’s Sofie

Sofie (GooseIsland-com)Summer was at its languid apex when the three of us ventured out into the enveloping humidity of an early Ithaca evening lit by the lambent glow of fireflies. All of us would all be leaving town within the coming weeks, so why not lighten the load I’d have to cart away? Three bottles of Goose Island’s Sofie were among the bottles we chose for this purpose of subtraction, one each from 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Recently twenty-five years young, Goose Island got its start as a Chicago brewpub in 1988. By 1995, demand for Goose Island’s beers justified the building of a larger brewery and bottling plant. As a result of a series of deals to secure wider distribution, Goose Island has since fallen into the hands of larger interests, with Anheuser-Busch InBev now controlling fifty-eight percent of the company. (I’ll refrain from addressing the tortured “craft versus crafty” debate for now, but if you’d like to get a sense of what all the brouhaha is about, see Beervana’s informative article.) In a press release marking the occasion of the agreement, Goose Island founder and president, John Hall, assured his devoted fans that “the new structure will preserve the qualities that make Goose Island’s beers unique, strictly maintain our recipes and brewing processes” (sic). Thanks to these agreements, Goose Island’s beers now enjoy wide availability. If these beers haven’t already arrived on the shelves of your bottle shop, chances are that you, too, might soon be able to start building up a reserve of beers like Sofie, Matilda, Pepe Nero, and Père Jacques.

As for those three farmhouse ales that have been patiently awaiting our attention? Fermented with wild yeast, Sofie is a blended beer comprised of eighty percent Belgian-style ale and twenty percent Belgian-style ale aged in wine barrels with orange peel. Goose Island bills Sofie as “an intriguing choice for Champagne drinkers and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian Saisons,” and there’s not much my friends and I could find to quarrel with in this description.

All three vintages were similar in appearance – golden honey – but beyond that, we were drinking three very different beers. The 2013 was the most vinous of the three, with peppery Sauvignon Blanc-like aromas of gooseberry and cedar shrub that one of my friends referred to less charitably as cat piss. IMG_9765All of us were in agreement that the beer was much more palatable than what the aromas might have suggested to some of us – a silky and effervescent ensemble of bready malt accented by a touch of Brettanomyces underneath a fruitiness suggestive of white grapes: elegance right through the clean-grained orange-malt finish.

The 2012 edition is probably the clearest expression of this farmhouse ale’s nod in the direction of Champagne. Wheat and clean Pils malt aromas combine with a yeastiness both bread-like and peppery, and a trace of green tea opens onto Brett-infused apple cider. As with the 2013, this beer is a paragon of balance: malt richness rounds out the lime-like acidity; pear-inflected apple cider and musky white grape notes pay their compliments; and all of this makes an admirable match for the piquant effervescence.

With the extra year of age on the 2011, the wild yeast and barrel-aging notes become even more pronounced. The beer exudes relatively strong notes of “bandaid” Brettanomyces together with cinnamon, mellow green apples, a peppery yeastiness, and a delicate floral perfume. “Nice and mellow,” was our consensus. We also agreed that of the three beers, this one does better on the warmer side of cellar temperature. In comparison to the effervescence of the other two vintages, this ale is less prickly but also more dry and sour. The wild yeast aromatics hear their echo on the palate (albeit with a slightly bitter-herbal tone) along with some green apple tartness. A pleasant citrusy levity cheers the finish.

Goose Island claims that Sofie will develop for up to five years, and well it might. Of the three successive vintages we tasted, moderate aging flatters the beer. While the 2011 exhibited a more pronounced spice, wood, and Brettanomyces character, it had developed a tart dryness that led us to question whether more of this would be a good thing.

So drink up, but not too quickly.

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Images:

Sofie: www.gooseisland.com

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc: F. D. Hofer

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©2014 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.