La Folie - New Belgium Brewing Co.
I’ve touched on some other beers from the Lips of Faith line by New Belgium, specifically the Cocoa Mole from a while back. But at a recent beer event, New Belgium was sampling the 2012 version of La Folie, their sour brown ale. Past years have been quite popular, but I have been missing out on trying them. Unfortunate, because word has it that this is a danged good beer, and a good beer to cellar. It is aged in French oak barrels before bottling, and keeping a bottle in a cool, dark place for about a year will highlight things like that, the malt character, and maybe a few other bits of it. The 2012 version is, by all accounts, similar in nature to the earlier vintages when they were new. Maybe a little more tart, but this is a sour beer we’re talking about. It is one of my favorite varieties, but I wouldn’t say that makes me a ‘lemon head’ or ‘sour cherry’ or whatever sour version of an IPA aficionado would call themselves. No, I prefer a good balance and complex flavor profile when it comes to sours. So of course, I turned an inquisitive eye towards this one and bought a bottle.
This beer pour a chestnut, slightly reddish brown. Right off the bat, without even really trying, you get the sour notes to the nose. As soon as it starts forming the light, fluffy head, you get some tart cherries and a bit of that barnyard funk. Yes, you get a healthy dose of brettanomyces there, but it is definitely outplayed by the sour scent. Not so much a vinegary sour, but a very fruity and natural kind of sour. I gave it a cautious sip, and got a small taste of just plain ol’ tang. In the taste, it definitely gets more vinegary and lemony, but it is mellowed out by the well-rounded blend of pale, munich, and chocolate malts. With a bit more tasting, you can get some of the hops, but they do not add much. Just a little bitter linger at the end after the drawn out sour taste wears off.
So, I guess by now you can guess that the main arena of flavor in this is ‘sour’. But unlike some other sour beers, this one isn’t quite so straight forward. It is almost as if there is some kind of sour blend going on here. You get the lemon and the sour cherry, that’s for sure, but you also get this kind of blue cheese funk from whatever sourness the brettanomyces and lactobacillus is lending. After getting over the initial shock, I came to see the whole sourness to be more tannin than anything else. Kind of a red wine blended with a beer. Overall, a great experience in sours.
A fun thing to mention is the food pairings. New Belgium’s website is very well stocked with gourmet pairing ideas from chefs who’ve sent their ideas in, but one that stuck with me as a particularly good match was a wild mushroom crusted Colorado lamb rack with cipollini puree, polenta, and rainbow chard in lamb reduction. It matches well in both the tartness matching with the gamey lamb, and also the acidity of the beer cutting through the fatty and lingering flavors of the sides and reduction. It would be a great palate cleanser, almost vying for greatest interest of the meal.
Knowing that this beer ages quite well, I’m going to have to stick it in my slowly growing area of my closet where I am aging beers. This will be my first sour to age, but hopefully I won’t have to wait for it to be my first cellared sour I taste.