Sunday, May 15, 2011

481. New Belgium/Allagash Vrienden

Holy score of scores! Sometimes those seemingly out of the way beer stores offer up sweet sweet liquid gold. And Gays Hops-n-Schnapps in Angola, IN (seriously, I couldn’t make that name up if I tried) yielded up this gem. Or several of them, since I bought out what they had on the shelf. I mean, let’s be honest, this one hits pretty much all the requisite marks. We’ve got New Belgium, and then Lips of Faith, followed by collaboration, and then Allagash, mixed with brettanomyces, and finally lactobacillus. Sounds like a recipe for deliciousness. And by sounds, I mean is. Our previous encounters with New Belgium include La Folie Falling Rock Tap House 10th Anniversary, Mighty Arrow Pale Ale, Ranger, Le Fleur, Misseur?, Transatlantique Kriek, Biere de Mars, Fat Tire, 1554 Enlightened Black Ale and La Folie. Sadly, we haven’t had any beers from Allagash, well, at least none we’ve written up. Mea culpa. If you feel so inclined, send some our way, and we’ll correct this egregious and slightly embarrassing error.

Described on the label as an “ale brewed with hibiscus and endive,” Vrienden pours a reddish orange—the hibiscus color is there, but it is not nearly as red as Goose Island’s La Fleur. The head is white and light, and quickly rings the glass, although there are a few skiffs of foam floating around on the surface. Elli describes the nose as brett-y goodness; when pushed to further expand her description, she declared it floral and herbal combined with earthy and mineral-ly crispness, followed be a touch of sweetness. Well put, my dear. Flavors open with a dry, crackery malt and move into mineral tartness and floral fruitiness mixed with earthy and hay flavors that are also tangy and sour. The turn to the finish has a spritzy, effervescent carbonation burst that wipes the palate clean before finishing with a lingering mineral earthy funkiness and bitterness. As the beer warms, the tartness increases, and so does the sweetness in the body and mouthfeel—there is a fair change from front to back on this beer: the initial mouthfeel is dry, crisp, and light-bodied, while toward the end of the bottle, it was dry, tart, and medium-bodied. The alcohol is well-hidden, but does peek out a bit as the beer warms. Let’s just say that there is a lot going on with this beer, and all of it is good. We likey. Ah, Lips of Faith, how we’ve missed you...

From the bottle: “Get a Belgian brewmaster and a master of Belgian brewing together and there’s sure to be spontaneous imagination that leads to micro-organisms mingling in fermentation bliss. Allagash and New Belgium are pleased to offer you our collabeeration brewed with the slightly fruity hibiscus flower, the aromatic brettanomyces, and the flavor-boosting lactobacillus. We recommend pairing it with creamy, soft cheeses and charming vrienden—that’s ‘friends’ in Flemish. Enjoy!”

ABV: 8.5%


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