When sour beer takes over the world in 30 years, you’ll remember where you were when you first heard of it. That’s a little dramatic, but sour is a trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. Specific yeast and bacteria treatments combined with barrel aging can produce sour beer. Patience is also key. Many of the world’s best sours seem to find their sweet spot after spending some time in a bottle.
Maine’s Allagash Brewing released one of these special beers, named FV13, in February. It’s the company’s first venture into the world of foudre beers. Foudres are giant oak tanks used for aging. This beer has a base with lots of malt character, fermented with a blend of wild yeast and bacteria, and aged in said vessels.
Poured from a 375-ml corked-and-caged bottle, FV13 appears chestnut with a white head. If you pour the beer in its entirety little specks of sediment will slowly sink into your glass. It smells musty, oaky, tart. The first sip is dry and bubbly, like a champagne. It goes down with a sour, buttery finish. The beer sweetens as it warms, which really brings out cherry and other fruit notes. Caramelized sugar from the malt backbone comes and goes, but this beer is more about the dance happening on the tip of the tongue. It’s refreshing and delicious.
FV13 checks in at 8.9 percent alcohol by volume. You could age it for a long time to let the flavors meld a bit and bring out more complexity. As it stands this beer is exceptionally drinkable.
I’ve given you plenty of summer sippers recently but, despite the warm weather, we’re going to dive back into some heavier stuff this week.
Through marketing and distribution, Clown Shoes Beer appears to be everywhere these days. Matt Lauer even quaffed some when the “Today’’ TV show visited Faneuil Hall earlier this year. Somebody did something really good there, marketing-wise. The company now ships as far afield as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Alabama.
Clown Shoes’ Third Anniversary beer, Luchador en Fuego, is a version of the brewer’s “Chocolate Sombrero” beer aged in Heaven Hill and Wild Turkey bourbon barrels. The original beer is an imperial stout with ancho chili, cinnamon, and vanilla extract added. Aging brings even more complexity. More ancho chili was added, just in case. As is the case with most Clown Shoes beers, this one is boozy, weighing in at a no-joke 11 percent alcohol by volume. Pack a blanket.
Luchador en Fuego pours oil-rig black with very little carbonation into a tulip glass. Chocolate and vanilla swirl in the nose. The first sip is thick and rich. Coffee and dark chocolate are the predominant flavors, but a subtle spice slides down your throat on the back end. This is a big beer, but it’s worthy of your attention.