Tag Archives: new belgium

Sour Grains: New Glarus Unplugged Enigma VS. New Belgium La Folie

19 May

Ahh, the power of persuasion.  With a bomber of one in my fridge and a stack of 4-packs of the other staring me in the face at work, all it took was some timely inspiration from Mr. Glazer over at Madison Beer Review to push me to crack a bottle each of New Glarus Unplugged Enigma and New Belgium La Folie and subject my GI tract to 34 ounces of vinegary goodness.

The second consecutive Unplugged beer that happens to be a reborn fan-favorite (after Cherry Stout), Enigma continues to add to Dan Carey’s legendary ability to coax sublime greatness out of the humble Door County cherry.  Wild-fermentation and oak-aging keep this gem firmly within Mr. Carey’s considerable wheelhouse.  Last brewed in 2006, Enigma has developed a devoted following among local beer folk and it was no surprise that New Glarus fans so strongly backed its return.

New Belgium’s La Folie has garnered considerable accolades of its own and risen to the pantheon of American-brewed Belgian-style sour ales.  Whereas New Glarus’ offering skirts the boundaries between fruit and sour ale styles, La Folie is presented as a traditionally-styled sour brown/red ale in the oud bruin or Flanders red vein.  The brewers’ notes on the respective bottles illustrate the divergent goals of these two soured suds:

Enigma – “Our Master Brewer has forged a smooth garnet tapestry that defies description.”

La Folie – “Seriously sour, this Flanders-style reddish brown ale was fermented for 1 to 3 years in French oak barrels for mouth puckering perfection.”

New Glarus Unplugged Enigma

Style: Oud Bruin/Sour Brown Ale/Fruit Beer

Vitals: ~5.5% abv; Brewed with wild yeast and Door County cherries; aged in unlined oak for 4 months

Company Line:

A complex and intriguing original. The mystery began with wild yeast spontaneously fermenting a rich treasure of malted barley and cherries. Unlined Oak casks breathe deep vanilla hues and chords of smoke into this sour brown ale. Our Master Brewer has forged a smooth garnet tapestry that defies description. Wander off the beaten path.

My take: pours a strawberry-tinged amber under a fizzy off-white head that vanishes quickly.  Soft aromas of silky vanilla and and fresh oak are bolstered by husky malt and cherry juice.  Buttery-smooth vanilla and tart cherry envelop the palate over a lightly-toasted, slightly smoky malt backbone.  Finish is pleasantly sour with a quick metallic note and slight lingering fruitiness.  Class in a glass.  Elusive, yet immediately accessible.  Whenever cherries meet oak under Dan Carrey’s tutelage, good things happen.

New Belgium La Folie

Style: Flanders Red/Sour Ale

Vitals: 6.0% abv; aged 1-3 years in French oak; wild fermented

Company Line:

La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, is our original wood-conditioned beer, resting in French Oak barrels between one and three years before being bottled. Peter Bouckaert, came to us from Rodenbach – home of the fabled sour red. Our La Folie emulates the spontaneous fermentation beers of Peter’s beloved Flanders with sour apple notes, a dry effervescence, and earthy undertones. New in 2010, we’ll do a single bottling of La Folie for the year. Collect the 22oz unique to 2010 designed bottle and start a yearly wood-aged collection of goodness.

My take: pours a dark, deep garnet-brown with a light, quickly-dissipating white crown.  Nose sparks with zingy raspberry vinaigrette, smooth oak and light malts.  Hints of zippy Greek yogurt arise with aeration. Notes of ripe berries are quickly zapped by the formidable crabapple acidity which lays down a slight metallic sheen on the palate before a pleasant roasted malt base breaks through.

La Folie proves to be a much more challenging experience for the palate as compared to the Enigma.  Where the Enigma has the benefit of fresh cherries to lend a soothing sweetness and choses a shorter and more subtle application of the wild fermentation; La Folie takes a more traditional path toward a Belgian-style oud bruin/Flanders red with a blend of oak-aged sour vintages with a noble lineage (brewer Peter Bouckaert came to New Belgium from Rodenbach, founding fathers of the Flanders Red tradition) and really electrifies the palate with its supremely sour character.

For lovers of face-wrenching sours (a hat I do indeed wear on occasion) La Folie knocks it out of the park with intense acidity and a bright, dry body.  Enigma takes the road less-traveled, enveloping the senses with layers of cherry, vanilla, oak and smoke in a smooth package that seduces the palate with alternating sweet and sour notes and makes for an ultimately more enjoyable (and accessible) experience.  After 34 full ounces of tongue-curling, cheek-biting, stomach-pickling goodness (a full bomber of La Folie was admittedly challenging to finish by myself in addition to the single Enigma), this drinker’s sour beer tooth has been satiated.  I see a handful of Tums and a whole lot of easy- drinking  Furthermore Oscura in my future.


New Brew: New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale

9 Feb

New Belgium Brewing has quickly expanded its line-up since it first entered the Wisconsin market last year.  Initially just a few standards such as Fat Tire and Mothership Wit in bombers, Wisconsinites are now privy to much of their catalog including seasonals and special releases like La Folie, their well-lauded sour brown ale (you know I have a bottle chilling in the mini-fridge – holler!).  Their latest is Ranger India Pale Ale – their first venture in true American-style (read: hopped-til-you-drop) IPAs named after the ambassadors of beer they’ve enlisted across their empire.

Beer: New Belgium Ranger India Pale Ale

Vitals: 6.5% abv; 70 IBUs; Hops: Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe; Malts: pale, dark caramel

Company Line: “So, here it finally is – New Belgium’s foray into the true American India Pale Ales. Bring out the hops! This clear amber beauty bursts at the starting gate with an abundance of hops: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity) lead off the beer, with Cascade added again for an intense dry hop flavor. Brewed with pale and dark caramel malts that harmonize the hop flavor from start to finish, Ranger is a sessionable splendor for all you hopinistas. Thank your Beer Ranger! -newbelgium.com

My take: crystal clear amber under loads of soapy, lacy foam in the glass.  Aroma bounces between herbal and tropical fruit hop notes.  Palate surprises with a brief strike of…watermelon? between the varied hop characters.  Dry herbaceous and citrus notes from the Cascade are countered by pineapple and apricot from the Simcoe.  Malt presence is light and biscuity, lending a smooth, dry finish that scrubs any lingering hops resin from the palate and invited further sipping.  Aside from the slightly distracting watermelon note, this is a highly sessionable and pleasantly balanced take on the American IPA.  Flavorful without being heavy-handed.  Ranger gives the drinker the benefit of the doubt in assuming a sophisticated and discerning palate that looks for more than high IBU values in an IPA.  At $4 a bomber, you really can’t go wrong.

New Brew: New Belgium Hoptober

2 Sep

Padma likes what she sees

A recent trip across the street to Barriques PD netted me  a six-pack of New Belgium’s latest offering, Hoptober.  As summer wanes and the weather chills with each coming day, a beer that appears to meld hops with a malty Oktoberfest-style seemed right up my alley.  As it turns out, Hoptober is somewhat of a misnomer.

Beer: New Belgium Hoptober

Style: Golden Ale

Description: “Five hops and four malts make Hoptober Golden Ale a veritable cornucopia of the earth.  Pale and wheat malt are mashed with rye and oats to create a medium-bodied ale with a creamy mouthfeel. Centennial, Cascade, Sterling, Willamette, and Glacier hops form a bonfire of citrus notes, fruity cheers and a bold finale. – newbelgium.com”

Vitals: 40 IBU, 6% ABV

My take: The beer pours into my vintage Schlitz chalice just a one would expect from a golden ale – light golden yellow, crystal clear, and with ample white, foamy head.  The nose on this beer is simply phenomenal.  Those 5 hops and 4 malts really create a lot of complexity to take in with notes ranging from citrus to honey, vanilla, and apricot.  The beer sits full, yet smooth in the mouth with a nice even effervesence.  The malts assert themselves on the palate up front with the rye provideing that unique grit that I love.  A brisk piney hop flourish cleans the palate in the end.

I really think this beer hits the mark as a great transition between the refreshing hoppy beers of summer and the complex malty beers of fall.  A beer that would be an asset to any brewery’s catalog and something I could see in my fridge on a regular basis.  Seek this out while it’s on the shelves.

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