the sour ale hunt, continued
After successfully locating several sour beers on draft last week, my sour ale hunt continued at New Bohemia in Northeast Minneapolis.
After some prodding by friends at the realization that the place has been in the old Panera Bread space for nearly one year, I was long overdue for a visit. I wasn’t surprised by the sizable beer list, but I was surprised that they had 5 sour or wild beers on available.
As promised, the sour ale discussion will resume with a chat about Lambics. A Lambic is only Lambic if it is produced in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) or in Brussels proper at the Cantillon Brewery. Of course, like champagne or brand-name Kleenex, there is no “Lambic” police and several American breweries refer to something they produce as a Lambic while it would be more accurate to call it a sour ale or American wild ale.
My first beer of the afternoon was Goose Island’s Matilda Lambicus. It is classified as a wild ale but represents many flavors often found in a true Lambic. It is not blended with any fruit but it is carbonated (traditional Lambics are not).
According to the BJCP (which doesn’t recognize American Wild Ales as a distinct style, by the way), Lambics dry wtih age. They display a low final gravity but lots of flavor. I also learned that hops primarily act as a an anti-bacterial agent in Lambics rather than a major source of flavor.
The Goose Island Matilda Lambicus pours a very hazy caramel-amber and the aroma is pungently vinous and tart with some citrus notes. There is a clear fermenty-yeasty smell, too. The taste is quite sour with many wild notes – grass, horseblanket. The finish is relatively bitter, too, and long-lasting.
“After primary fermentation with a Belgian ale yeast strain, a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces Lambicus is carried out. Like its sister beer Matilda, Matilda Lambicus has baking spice aromas with a touch of funk expected from Brettanomyces” –GI
There were many things I enjoyed about this beer but I would have enjoyed a bit more variation in flavor – something more than a sour barnyard, like maybe more fruity notes or depth of malt.
Check out New Bohemia if you haven’t been. If, like me, you’re not into sports, don’t go on a game day. the TV’s are stupid huge. The beer list is wide and impressive, server knowledge is varied but they are committed to finding guests a beer they will like.
I was so impressed by the beer lists around town and how many sours are represented! The next day I tried another Flanders Red in the comfort of my own home, however, as I was in a staying-in mood.
It is quite thin in body and brighter in aroma than the Duchesse, with tart cherry acidity that dominates the flavor and slightly less stonefruit. The vinegar and horseblanket aromas aren’t a large part of the taste but they add to the variety of flavor overall. Some earthy and okay notes present themselves, too.
If sours are your thing, try tasting a few side-by side. Sometimes when I drink them I get slightly overwhelmed by their unusual-ness. All my brain says initially is “sour! Sour sour sour!” In reality, though, there is much more complexity here to appreciate than when licking a lemon. The subtleties are they most enjoyable flavors to me.
I’ve received many messages regarding how to find sours. In the Twin Cities, this isn’t too hard. Several liquor stores carry a wide selection of these brews – see my recommended page for help. Call ahead to places like New Bohemia, Red Cow, Muddy Waters, Pig & Fiddle, or The Happy Gnome.
Happy sour drinking! Go and make sour beer converts of your skeptical friends.