Saturday 2 November 2013

Celebrating Sour Beer Day in Style

Those who follow me regularly know that I spent this year’s Sour Beer Day/Zwanze Day at the 15th Anniversary Party of Dieu du Ciel, but like many more traditional holidays, the friendly gatherings stretched on and the festivities continued!  Thus, a few days later, a visiting sour beer-loving pal, Rob, and Noah, the mastermind behind, joined me for an epic tasting following the festivities.
The Lineup (Note the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines in the background, brought to the table when my less than two-year old ran in with it excitedly shouting, "Daddio, Daddio" before he went to bed and we cracked the first bottle!)

The night began with Quebec marvel Brasserie Dunham’s excellent Saison Réserve (a 6.5% ABV blend of their Saison Rustique [82% of the blend] and their Leo’s Early Breakfast IPA [the remaining 18%] which was then bottle re-fermented with wild yeast).  The result is something to behold regardless.

My comment that this had such a mountainous rocky head that ants would deem the peaks akin to Everest brought my wife to chuckles (as it should - #shitbeergeekssay), but my first impression was true wonder at this marvel of heady peaks that are unparallelled in my beer drinking experience.  The nose offered some excellent earthy hops notes alongside some barnyard funk, while the taste was lightly sour with a more prevalent barnyard funk, merely negligible traces of the guava and tea, with a more substantial dry lingering earthy hops that blended well with the funkiness.  The carbonation was bold, but not overpowering and I was thrilled to drink this delightful brew.  Grade: A/A+

We then turned to Jolly Pumpkin’s Oro de Calabaza (8% ABV American version of a Biere de Garde). Presenting a moderately cloudy yellow with a fair fizzy white head, this beer didn't immediately appear as noteworthy as the Réserve and, though the least sour of the night, was still a wonderful treat. Moderate barnyard funk notes complemented some floral hops in the aroma, while the taste had some oak noes and a bit of faintly fruity funk, but with an easy drinkability. There was a substantial amount of funk here, but not so much in the way of acidic tart sourness, which showed well with decent prickly carbonation. Sourness isn't the criteria for excellence, however, and this (like all beers that night) was excellent! Grade: A-/A

The Bruery's Sour in the Rye (7.8% ABV American Wild Ale) came next, pouring a decent, if-quickly dwindling head atop an orangish-reddish body. The nose was nicely tart with some woody notes present underlining the balsamic sort of vinegar aroma. It was quite tart with sour candy-ish notes without any of the sweetness. Just a hint of the rye spiciness propped up the tartness adding a decent complexity (to what was already quite nicely complex). This was supported by a fair body and a decent carbonation. Grade: A

Finally, we side-by-sided Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label and Tilquin Oude Gueuze a l’Ancienne.

Separately, these high quality Belgian gueuzes would seem quite similar, but together we could go back and forth highlighting the differences in contrast.

The Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label (5% ABV) poured a lightly cloudy yellow without much head. The nose smelled like a "dusty barnyard" according to Noah, and I couldn't agree more wafting hugely funky aromas from cobwebs, dust, and horse blanket - the whole gamut. Tastewise, it was equally funky and though the Tilquin was too, its funk paled in direct comparison, even if it was probably slightly more acidic. The Girardin, however, offered a very tingly feel with an expressively barnyard-y and leathery lingering finish of noteworthy complexity, with a light-ish body. Grade: A/A+

In juxtaposition Tilquin Oude Gueuze a l’Ancienne (6% ABV) poured an ever-so-slightly darker light amber than the Black Label Girardin and had a slightly more sour nose with just mild fermenting fruity notes discernible. It was very tart and fairly funky, perhaps a touch more tart and a touch less funky than the girardin, with just slight hints of wood and fruit underneath. Medium bodied, with a full tingly carbonation, this was a delicious delight for fans of the funk! Grade: A/A+

All in all, the single best tasting I have ever sat down for in terms of high standard all along! You know when you rank Oro de Calabaza as the lowest of the night, you are in for a real treat!

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