Saturday, 16 June 2012

Mondial Review #5: Strange & Sour Oddities


Some of the gems of Mondial de la Bière fell into odd categories, the first comprising two Flanders Red Ales, a Gueuze, an American Wild and a Bière de Garde, the latter being made up of a Brut, a Chilean spiced beer, and a fruit/spiced beer made with the rare Amazonian fruit called bacuri.  Let's dissect them further.

Sours

Personal Best of the Fest: Brouwerij Rodenbach Grand Cru (6% ABV), a Flanders Red Ale is simply fantastic - if you dig sour!  It pours a light brown with a fine, creamy-beige head of solid retention and lacing.  Aromas are primarily of sour cherries with hints of yeasty spice, and a touch of apple cider vinegar.  It tastes wonderfully sour - like everything that is good about a maraschino cherry without any of the artificially sweet additive notes!  Very sour, but just perfect for the style!  Medium bodied with fair carbonation, it floats smoothly across the tongue and is easy drinking for the style.  Grade: A+


Brouwerij Van Honsenbrouk's St. Louis Geueze Fond Tradition (5% ABV) is also quite pleasant if not legendary.  It pours a beautiful, dark amber with excellent tan head, retention, and lacing.  The aroma is faint and mostly of mildly-spiced yeast, though it is possible my sample came from a long-opened bottle.  The flavour was also fairly mild, sour but not excessively so (or seemingly not at all immediately after the above!) appearing at first mild and tea-like before some sweetly sour traces of a light lemony tartness.  Smooth despite fair carbonation, but perhaps thanks to a light-ish body.  Nice, just mild - perhaps a good intro to the sour for some?  Grade: B+


Jolly Pumpkin's Oro de Calabaza (8% ABV) was my first Bière de Garde with little frame of reference except what I have read in some books and on websites.  It pours a faintly cloudy golden in colour with little head but nice surface spotting.  There is a fine balance between sweetness and sourness, sort of like a dry wine or champagne, with a sweeter nose that has a touch of sour and a more sour, tart, acidic taste with just a touch of balancing sweetness.  There is a touch of coriander spice and a fairly drying floral hoppy finish.  It is smooth, creamy, and essentially lacks carbonation.  Very interesting and not bad, but just not as desirable for me personally as a true Belgian sour.  Grade: B/B+


Vermont Pub & Brewery's Tulach Leis (6.1% ABV) didn't impress around my crew.  Appearing with a nice amber colour and moderate off-white head of fair retention and lacing, it offered only a faint aroma with only faintly sour notes.  It was far too sour without the complexity of the Rodenbach alongside an unappealing funkiness.  Grade: C+/B-


Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja (7.2% ABV), an American wild ale allegedly in the Flanders tradition, didn't impress as much as those truly Belgian sour offerings.  I can get the appeal here, but also think the style (or this beer) goes a bit far, though with wild yeast who knows what can happen!  It pours a lightly cloudy dark amber that has negligible head (perhaps due to the pouring) at the event.  It offered funky, sweaty, and pear notes predominantly, though funky earthiness is easily the most evident and apt description.  It offers a bitter-sweetness (in that sour candy sort of way) with a peaty and earthy/sweaty flavour of unfiltered wild yeast.  It is tingly and pop-like on the tongue and I didn't find this very fitting with the funkiness, though I could get the appeal of it if it were what you were into.  It isn't the sourness that turns me off, rather it is the funk!  Grade: C+/B-

The Miscellaneous, Unique, and Bizarre

Yes, most of these beers can be categorized in some way, but rather than having three categories of one, I thought I'd go through them here, and rather than listing a 'best of the fest,'  all three deserve a medal type of honour in this catch-all category as all are very noteworthy for a reason!

The Golden Oddity: New Belgium's Lips of Faith Cocoa Molé (9% ABV) is simply amazing - but not if you can't stand a little spicy chili in your beer!  It's a good thing this was my last beer on day one or I might have drank it all day and tried no others (though I started the day with Allagash Curieux and ended just as strongly!).  It pours a golden-tinged dark brown with a nice creamy mocha head, though of negligible retention or lace.  Up front it tastes slightly sweet in chocolate molé way, but just after swallowing a fair chili spiciness kicks back through the palate in a very pleasant manner (unless you're my mother!)  It leaves a nice warming dryness from the chili that just smooths out the sweetness and leaves you me wanting more... and more.  I devoured this glass and tried to get a second only to discover I had finished their selection.  Best spicy beer I have ever tasted!  Grade: A+

The Silver Oddity: Okay, a Bière Brut (Champagne Beer) is not that odd to beer folks, if it is to the public, but they are fairly uncommon and it was the only one I consumed at the fest.  Yet, Microbrasserie Charlevoix graces the review pages again with their Dominus Vobiscum Brut (11% ABV) which I thoroughly enjoyed!  It offers a cloudy golden body beneath a gorgeous foamy, fizzy, white head that settles down fairly quickly leaving a decent lace.  Aromas are of lemon zest and rind as well as some sweeter citrus notes.  Flavourwise, there is a predominance of sweet pear/apple fruitiness with a lightly drying peppery/yeasty spiciness.  Simply delicious - champagne but better!  Grade: A/A+

The Bronze Oddity: Take a wild, rare Amazonian fruit, put it in a Brazilian beer without Canadian distribution and watch me try something I may never taste again.  Make it good and hear me rave about it!  Cervejaria Amazônia was able to do both with their Bacuri Forest (3.8% ABV) which pours a standard pale yellow with a fizzy white head that settles down quickly with just slight lace.  Orange scented hops greets the nose with fainter hints of rind and pine, like a mild IPA.  The citrus notes continue in the mouth but with a sweet lemon presentation that is quite enjoyable indeed and dried out with the citrusy hops.  With low carbonation, light body, and low alcohol, this beer is a smooth-drinking session beer if ever there was one... now to find myself a case for that session...  Grade: A-/A

Well, that's it for beer reviews, stay tuned for my final Mondial wrap-up!

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