Gewurztraminer: Yes, I Enjoyed This One

The Back Story:

Gewurztraminer GrapesSometimes a wine has to be forced onto me for me to have to try it. That doesn’t mean that someone is holding me down and forcing me to sip from a glass, of course, just that I wouldn’t have ever spent the money on it myself.

Gewurztraminer is one like that. From the first time I was ever burned by a flabby, rotten, saccharine-sweet Gewurz, sitting so innocently, so golden-deliciously pretty in its glass, I’ve been wary of its devilish charms. It really is like the succubus of the wine world, if there were occasionally good-hearted succubi (or whatever fan-fiction plot twist there exists that would make this metaphor come together in a non-M. Night Shyamalan sense).

Fortunately, I have people around me who take the risks with this grape, weeding out the delightful from the gut-churning and rewarding me with the fruits of their labor. The Durkheimer Feuerberg Gewurztraminer Kabinett is one such wine. From Vier Jahreszeiten, which, from what I can gather on the Google, is more famous as a hotel than a winery, this Gewurztraminer that managed to intrigue me is, of course, from the heart of Germany.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a deep gold, though it has a very light green tint at its depth. Swirl suggests a medium viscosity.

The nose of the wine is almost exclusively floral with notes of jasmine and rose. There is a very slight apricot as well as a citrus scent. The alcohol is basically nonexistent on the nose.

The mouth feel of the wine is somewhat full and creamy, though the acidity feels just a bit low.

The flavor of the wine is fairly typical, albeit more intense, for a Gewürztraminer. It has an exclusively floral attack, giving way to overripe tropical fruits on the mid-palate. The finish is a fantastically bright lavender. There’s a minor sweetness to this wine, and it almost tastes like it needs a bit higher acidity to counter it. The alcohol, at 11.5%, supports the flavor very well.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is one of those sweeter whites that really suits a beginner’s palate. It’s got a beautiful floral characteristic as well as ripe fruits combined with just enough residual sugar to give the whole thing a full, pungent flavor. If you’ve got a friend who’s more into red wines, this won’t please their palate, but anyone who is a fan of off-dry whites and dessert wines should enjoy this, at least unless Gewurztraminer simply isn’t your thing.

The Conclusion:

If you were ready to write off Gewurztraminer as a hopeless grape destined for the White Zin crowd, this one might keep you around a bit longer. 6/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Durkheimer Feuerberg Gewurztraminer Kabinett

Producer: Vier Jahreszeiten

Region: Pfalz, Germany

Varietal(s): 100% Gewurztraminer

Vintage: 2007

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 11.5%

pH: unknown

Price: $17

Purchased at: A Southern Season, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Exploring an Utter Mystery in the Yadkin Valley

From the first moment that I saw the name of the winery, “Cellar 4201,” on the North Carolina map, I was intrigued. The name reminded me, strangely, of the vaults from Fallout, and I half-expected to come across some sort of bomb-shelteresque hole in the ground a la Vault 101:

Fallout Vault 101 Door

Instead, you’re greeted by an elegant wooden door surrounded by sub-tropical plants and set in a cottage-like tasting room that seems yanked directly from Italy’s Piedmont countryside:

Cellar 4201 Entrance

Words cannot convey how intrigued I was by this winery simply because of the name. Mysterious, entirely non-descriptive, and surrounded geographically by quirky names like Divine Llama and Rag Apple Lassie and old standbys like Shelton Vineyards and Flint Hill, Cellar 4201 provoked every curious bone I had in my body (206 I believe is the current scientific count). Looking at the pictures from their website only made me even more intrigued.

Oh, and by the way, that pour they put in the montage on the home page? That’s actually about the pour you get if you pay for a glass of wine. All their wines are only $5 by the glass, and you get to keep the glass as a souvenir every single glass you buy. They, uh, they take care of their customers.

The owner, Greg, was out straightening up the patio when we arrived; he gave us a friendly welcoming, and we started conversing. He gave us a rundown of the history of the vineyard, about how he and his wife, Donna, developed their passion for wine through traveling and decided to bring their favorite varietals from France and Italy to North Carolina. While they’ve been growing the grapes since 2003, their tasting room has only been open for a year. They took plenty of time to ensure their wines were top quality before they invited the public in. He also explained the name and the label; rather than gussy up the winery’s name, they wanted to quite simply describe what they were, a wine cellar located at 4201 Apperson Road. All their labels feature an arrowhead, an homage to Donna’s Cherokee heritage. The vibrant orange that runs through their label, their logo, and the flora on-site stems from Donna’s affinity for that color.

The expansive lawn of Cellar 4201 (yes that's a cornhole set out there)

While we talked, Greg began to pour a tasting for us. He described the intent behind each wine, each vintage, explaining why things tasted the way they did. Far from a hands-off owner, Greg planted himself firmly in the winemaking, though he defers to the knowledge of Sean McRitchie, a second-generation winemaker from McRitchie Winery and Ciderworks, whom he recruited to lead the process.

Halfway through the tasting, Greg had to leave to attend to his other business, but his tasting room partner and best friend Aaron continued the customer service. With a sleeveless shirt, tribal bicep tattoo, and a deep tan, Aaron struck me more as a rugged, outdoorsy type than a tasting room attendant, but he quickly demonstrated his passion for and knowledge of Cellar 4201’s wares as he poured the last wines. Aaron described how, after a long friendship spanning decades (“We’ve never had cross words for each other,” he proudly told us), Greg recruited him to help follow his dream and create the vineyard. They attended classes together, conducted blind tastings, and otherwise educated themselves on the varieties they planted. Now, they harvest the grapes, make the wine, and pour the wines together as a seamless duo.

Gotta stop before I write too much again. How about the wines? None are over $15, and all are absolutely fantastic. Small lots are maintained from 5 total acres of vines, and their wines are 100% estate-grown, meaning all the wine gets plenty of attention throughout the process.

Cellar 4201 is a winery after my girlfriend’s heart. She’s a big red drinker, lover of Bordeaux, and very particular about her white wines. Completely flying in the face of the typical North Carolinian palate, Cellar 4201 offers only two whites (neither of them sweet), and the rest of their wines are classic left-bank Bordeaux reds and an Italian red and off-dry Rosé, both single varietal Sangiovese.

09 Stainless Steel Chardonnay – Offers a bright nose of citrus, primarily pineapple, with a surprisingly full flavor of citrus and tropical notes and a very light perceived sweetness balanced by a superb, soft acidity. Finish is medium-long and tastes like lemons. 7/10

06 Barrel-aged Chardonnay - Spent 9 months in older French and American oak, imparting a very light oak on the nose and flavor. Tropical notes still come through on the nose, and the flavor introduces a slightly buttery characteristic as well as tropical and spices. The wine has a beautiful mouth-soaking texture, incredibly smooth and firm. 7/10

Cellar 4201 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Cellar 4201 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

NV Sangiovese – A quick note about the non-vintageness of this wine, straight from Greg: in 2007, frost killed almost all of their Sangiovese, leaving them with just 100 gallons after winemaking. Rather than bottle this as is, Greg decided to barrel-age the whole lot for an additional year, 2 years total, blending it with the 2008 Sangiovese after it had aged for a year.

The result is, in my opinion, the best wine they currently offer. A deep reddish-purple color like the skin of a black cherry, offering a light pepper and smoke that gives way to a rich black cherry flavor. The oak provides an incredibly nuanced, velvety texture while hardly encroaching on the pure flavor of the grapes. The tannins are chalky and delicate, offering a surprisingly smooth red wine that was perfect for sipping out in the sun. 8/10

Also, why Sangiovese? From the about us section: “After traveling to Italy, Donna developed a passion for Sangiovese. While admitting it is difficult to grow, it is currently our signature wine.” Simple.

2006 Merlot - With a nose of brisk cherry and black pepper, the Merlot hardly exhibits the 10 months it spent in French oak. It has a great structure, perhaps a bit lighter than a typical Merlot, but the flavors and texture are simply delightful. 7/10

2006 Reserve Merlot - With their Merlot, they split the vintage, oaking one twice as long as the other. Thus, the Reserve Merlot has all the characteristics of its purer brother, but with a palpable, pleasant oak characteristic. The flavor is fuller, darker, with cherries and pepper just bursting onto the palate. The texture is fuller as well, coating the mouth very nicely. Both styles are equally delicious and affordable, so choosing a Merlot is as simple as figuring out how full you prefer your reds to be. 7/10

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon - Very smoky nose. Complex flavor of dark fruits, tobacco, and wood with a smoky finish. Beautiful full flavor and texture. 10 months in French oak softened it without masking the flavor. 7/10

2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - With a fuller dark fruit flavor, light oak on the nose and palate, remnants of the smoky and woody character of its lighter brother, and a raisin quality on the finish, the 2006 Reserve Cabernet takes 20 months in French oak in stride. Great texture on this one. 7/10

2006 Sweet Native - The one concession Cellar 4201 has made to the sweet-drinking crowd, the Sweet Native is an off-dry Rosé from 100% Sangiovese with 3% sugar. The flavor is an array of citrus and red fruits, with a pleasantly crisp acidity and a decidedly non-syrupy texture. As Mr. Drink Pink, I approve. 7/10

This post accompanied by a bottle of the Cellar 4201 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. I made it almost 4 days without opening it.

Yet Another Summer Wine Value

The Back Story:

As you may have gathered by now, I’m a big promoter of two trends in wine: local production and organic and sustainable winemaking. Usually I discover these facts about a winery before I try their wares, as I actively seek out local and organic wines. This time, however, I didn’t figure out this particular wine was organic until the second bottle around, after I’d already taken my notes on it.

Which wine? Chateau Petit Roubié‘s 2009 Picpoul de Pinet. An impulse buy as I dashed through my local organic food shop (Weaver Street Market), the Picpoul was a varietal I hadn’t had in some time, and I wanted to rectify it in a hurry. I was pleasantly surprised by its complexity and crispness. As you also may have gathered, I love a high, aggressive acidity in my white wines despite my propensity for getting heartburn. When this shop gets in a new wine, I’m always eager to try it.

Certified organic since 2001, Chateau Petit Roubié embraces a poetically simple organic attitude:

Feed the soil to feed the plant, stimulate the biological activity of the soil, help the plant to resist disease and pests without contaminating the environment, avoid trace residue, maintain as far as possible an integrity with regard to the natural surroundings. These are the basic objectives of biological farming.

Petit Roubié claims Picpoul as their AOC. While they offer their red varietals of Alicante, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot, and Syrah and white varietals of Carignan Blanc, Clairette, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Sèmillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Terret Bourret, and Viognier as vin de pays in the spirit of their region, their wine proudly contributes to the 2000 year old Picpoul tradition as a village wine in the area.

You can explore all the producers in the Picpoul de Pinet region here. For now, let’s focus on the wine at hand…

The Results:

Chateau Petit Roubie Picpoul GlassThe appearance of the wine is a light golden color with a medium viscosity and a slight green tint.

The nose of the wine is comprised largely of citrus and orchard fruits, though there’s a floral component. Lemon and pear are largely featured, as is a slightly sweet honeyed scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is on the heavier side of medium-bodied, with a tangy, full, creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is very full, very crisp, very dry, with massive fruit forwardness, primarily citrus. Green apple and lemon match a puckering acidity very well on the attack, and pineapple and mineral flavors persist through the finish, which is moderate. The wine is bone dry but well-balanced. They say “drink it young at 8°C”, or under 50°F, and this is assuredly a drink-now affair; it’ll do just fine practically right out of the fridge tomorrow. The wine’s flavor did suffer heavily as it warmed, so make sure you keep this one on ice.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is yet another strong, refreshing white wine built for the summer days. It’s a value buy, not just a bargain, at $11, as my mate Steve Paulo at Notes From The Cellar will gladly and bluntly differentiate. It delivers a beautiful balance, a full-bodied flavor, and a complexity beyond the typical Sauvignon Blanc-esque summer fare. With pleasant, agreeable citrus flavors and a palpable acidity, it’ll make a good pairing for any of your spicy seafood endeavors. Just make sure you keep it cool… the wine begins to lose its crispness and takes on a bitter flavor as it gets warmer.

The Conclusion:

This might be one of those wines where a subjective concept of balance comes into play. Personally, I love the acidity on this wine, though it might  be offputting or overwhelming to some palates. I believe it sustains the flavor very well without contributing a sour or bitter undertone. If acidic wines are your thing, Picpoul is a varietal for you, and this particular one is a great value look at a very focused, up-and-coming wine-making region in Languedoc. 7/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Picpoul de Pinet

Producer: Chateau Petit Roubie

Region: Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

Varietal(s): 100% Picpoul

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 12.5%

pH: unknown

Price: $11

Purchased at: Weaver Street Market (Hillsborough, NC)

7 for 7, A Retrospective List for 7 Months in Social Media

In a truly amazing stroke of timing, Darren Rowse of Problogger wrote a post titled Take the 7 Link Challenge on the 7-month anniversary of the day I officially joined social media for work (the day I activated my Twitter account). After reading Phil Buckley’s 7 Posts You May Have Missed, I decided that today would be a good day for a retrospective on my own blogging adventures thus far. 7’s supposed to be a lucky number, right?

Chateau O'Brien's Tasting Room

What posts would I use to introduce these random wine-drinking strangers to my blog?

1. Your First Post: West Wind Wines: A Taste of Blue Ridge Culture was as much a way to introduce my readers to me as to West Wind Farms. It’s one of my longest and most prosaic posts, engaging in some of my creative writing class chops that I had recently finish honing. The fact that I snuck in some personal information as I profiled the winery (I think) made this a proper introduction of me to the blogosphere. I led with my passion, and that’s as good a way as any, right?

2. The Post You Enjoyed Writing The Most: The 2010 Texas – Virginia Wine Summit Part 4: Eye on the Future was an absolute blast for me on multiple levels. I got to research the Virginia wine industry in great depth, which led me to learn a whole lot about it I never really knew. The facts I presented, I thought, made a great case for Virginia to be the next great wine region. I also got to collaborate with one of my favorite wine bloggers, Ben Simons of Vinotology, who represented Texas in the great debate.

3. A Post Which Had a Great Discussion: The Occasional Risk of Buying Local was my first experience with bad publicity. I didn’t think it through too well when I ripped a local producer for a Rosé that I sought out. There were two things wrong with what I did: I didn’t research the wine and I hadn’t established my reputation. I got a prompt response from the winemaker who, though he didn’t exactly defend the wine, did take issue with how I described it. I forget who it was who said it, but they were right (and I wish I’d known that in retrospect): we’re writing about someone’s craft of love, and we should be diplomatic even if we dislike it. Lesson learned (sort of). I repeated some of my mistakes when ripping another wine a few weeks later, though I was much more diplomatic about it.

4. A Post on Someone Else’s Blog that You Wish You’d Written: The Dude’s Guide to Wine Series by Josh Wade of DrinkNectar is a no-brainer. It’s by far the most fun I’ve ever had reading a post, and I keep going back to giggle at the none-too-subtle innuendo. Not only that, but it truly is a phenomenal guide for men who might otherwise be intimidated by wine especially in the context of a date with an intimidating woman.

5. A Post with a Title You Are Proud Of: How NASCAR Drivers do Cabernet Franc demonstrates the rare ability I have to be both clever and concise. Usually my titles are close to a dozen words long as I simply cannot express myself adequately any less verbosely. I’m not entirely sure why, but this blog title always struck me as a favorite. It’s punchy, it’s snarky, it only took 6 letters, and it (I believe) incites a question in the potential reader’s mind: “How DOES a NASCAR driver do Cabernet Franc, exactly?” I had fun, at least. I also think of it fondly because it inspired me to visit Childress Vineyards, my new favorite North Carolina winery. Go there and try the Meritage (the Cab Franc is sold out!).

6. A Post You Wish More People Had Read: DIY Ethics in Punk and the Wine Blog Movement combined my two favorite passions: wine and music. Best of all, I got a guest blogger, Matt Mauldin of Wineheimer, a veteran of both the punk music scene and the wine industry, who offered incredibly targeted insight into my concerns. I also got to vent about the past, present, and future exploitation of my favorite music movement, the much maligned emo genre with Matt to straighten me out on the specifics. Really, I wish that anyone who has ever taken an interest in my blog had read it. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I got way too many TL;DR responses.

7. Your Most Visited Post Ever: The Best Boxed Wine You’ll Ever Buy (No, Seriously!) has received, by far, the most attention of any of my posts, and it’s largely because of Google. It’s a bit of a sucker search, though, because the wine I reviewed was technically not a boxed wine but a Tetrapak. Because of the continued response and interest, however, I decided to conduct my boxed wine experiment, and now I’m receiving at least a third of my traffic each day from people searching for info about boxed wine. Consider that a lesson on studying your keywords and building around them, eh?

If any of my wine blogger mates decide to do this as well, comment here or link me up… I would love to read your personal take on this theme!

Pair with Food: The Most Aggressive (good) Viognier I’ve Ever Tasted

The Back Story:

I was fairly bummed about missing the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla this year. I decided to pass the time in the days leading up to the event by directing hundreds of guilt-tripping tweets towards the bloggers who I knew were going.

Actually, I’m not quite that mean-spirited.

I did tweet a couple times to wish some of my blogger friends the best of times at the conference, in my own snarky way of course. One of the Washington State wineries, Desert Wind, noticed one of my tweets and offered to send me a sample of the wines they would be tasting at the event.

Who am I to turn down free wine?

The bottles arrived less than a week after I tweeted. I’ll definitely give Desert Wind props for that… I got 2 bottles from Desert Wind Winery and 2 bottles from Duck Pond Cellars, another Fries family project with vineyards in both Oregon and Washington. I was in a white wine mood (hey, big surprise there), so I decided to pop open a standard favorite of mine, the Viognier. The first experience was… unrewarding, I would say, but it clued us in to a food pairing that I decided to try the next night. Once that came around…? Oh man, was it good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale straw color with the slightest green tinge and a very clear luminosity. It appears to have a fairly full body.

The nose of the wine is very fruity with primarily tropical and citrus scents. Notes of pineapple, mango, and tangerine round out a slightly unusual Viognier nose. The alcohol doesn’t hardly come through at all.

The mouth feel of the wine is extraordinarily crisp and active, with a palpable acidity that registers in your mouth and throat immediately.

The flavor of the wine is, admittedly, nothing special on its own. It’s primarily fruit-forward, though the flavors themselves are fairly meek. Tropical and citrus round out the palate, though it’s hard to taste through the potent structure (alcohol at 14.5%). Even though the perceived acidity is high, it’s not imbalanced at all, as the pH is 3.45. It’s not bitter or unpleasant, just overwhelming where the flavor is concerned. The wine truly shined, however, when paired with Chicken Tikka Masala, a traditional Indian dish consisting of chicken tikka (chunks) cooked in masala, a tomato-based orange sauce seasoned with turmeric and curry.

As you can guess, the chicken is spicy, which is just what the wine needed. The spice softens the flavor, evoking a beautiful peach and mango flavor with a clean, moderately long finish. The wine also wasn’t half bad with buttered naan, garlic goat cheese, and juniper-berry-cured prosciutto either.

For the Casual Drinker:

You don’t want to attempt this wine without a spicy, rich food to counter it. It’s unforgiving on its own, and unless you absolutely crave the taste of acid and alcohol, you won’t get much of an experience from it. Break it out for your exotic white-meat or veggie fare, your spicy Asian dishes, maybe even Mexican if the chiles are kicking. Definitely don’t expect it to deliver nuance to a tame meal… it’ll simply overwhelm it.

The Conclusion:

Not an everyday drinker, but that’s not a problem. As long as the food pairing is right, this will be a rich, rewarding experience, especially at a bargain price of $15.00. 6/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Desert Wind Viognier

Producer: Desert Wind Winery

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Viognier

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: 1 g/L

Alcohol: 14.5 %

pH: 3.45

Price: $15.00

Purchased at: received as a gift, but available for purchase from the winery here

note: this wine was received as a gift from the winery as an industry sample.

And Now For Something Slightly Different… St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc

The Back Story:

A while back, when I was just beginning to get into blogging and social media, I had the good fortune to have an afternoon off when Rick Bakas was hosting a Tweetup and wine tasting in Raleigh. For those of you who don’t know Rick, he’s a heavy hitter in the social media front, one who demonstrates his abilities through his actions rather than styling himself as a “guru” or “ninja” or “expert.” Most recently, he’s been directing social media for St. Supery, a winery located in Napa. You can follow his efforts on their Twitter account, Facebook, and blog.

Along with tasting several of St. Supery’s wines, including the incredible high-end Elu blend, I got to chat with the man himself for a good portion of the event. I and a few other Raleigh social media / wine tweeps (@lisasullivan from Media Two Interactive and @jeffreylcohen of NC Wine TV also joined me later at a 5:00 Fridays cocktail tweetup hosted by Dirt & Noise‘s @ilinaP) got to pick his brain on the industry, on marketing in social media, and a wealth of other topics. We also did a fair share of shooting the breeze, chatting about sports, food, and travel. Rick even offered his camera to Jeff for an impromptu NC Wine TV interview!

Basically, if St. Supery makes their way out to your city, I highly suggest you make the effort to get out and participate. Good wine and good people always makes for a successful tweetup.

As for the wine, though I dearly loved the Elu, I couldn’t afford to take it home with me that day. Because of my love for Sauvignon Blanc, however, that wasn’t much of an issue. St. Supery was tasting one that day as well, their 2008 vintage, and it was good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale yellow with a green tint. It appears to be fairly viscous.

The nose of the wine is very crisp and tropical, with notes of bright peach, grapefruit, and limes. The nose is slightly subdued for a Sauvignon Blanc but extremely appealing. At 13.3%, the alcohol makes only a slight, cool appearance.

The mouth feel of the wine is delightfully representative of the varietal. While the pH is slightly high for a Sauvignon Blanc (and for St Supery’s fare… their 2007 and 2009 are both at 3.28 pH compared to 3.39 for this one, the 2008), the dry, crisp texture is still present. The dryness is jaw-clenching, with a very active, tangy acidity and a slightly creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is a bit more nuanced than the typical Sauvignon Blanc. The attack features peach and grapefruit, two congruous flavors that duel for supremacy on the palate. There’s a bit of grass and herbs, a nod to the classic style, but a delightfully long lemon-lime finish is accompanied by a soft perceived sweetness to shake up the palate a bit. I mentioned to someone that the Sauvignon Blanc had an unexpectedly fresh and nuanced flavor, and they remarked rather dismissively that they probably blended it to achieve this. Nope. This one is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you’ve had a Sauvignon Blanc, you basically know what to expect from this. It’s aggressive, like Sauvignon Blancs are wont to be, though this one adds some depth to the typical grassygrapefruitherb cluster of flavors this grape is known for. Sip it and enjoy, as the finish is where the wine really demonstrates its unique profile. Bone dry, by the way, at practically no residual sugar. Trust me, it doesn’t need it.

The Conclusion:

It’s certainly going to be a higher-end Sauvignon Blanc at $23.00, meaning you’ll be paying more for this bottle than two of most others, so this isn’t going to be an everyday sipper. If you really want a treat in this varietal, though, I highly recommend it. 8/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc

Producer: St. Supery

Region: Napa Valley, California, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: <.02%

Alcohol: 13.3%

pH: 3.39

Price: $23

Purchased at: Harris Teeter in Raleigh, available online direct from the winery here

Color me Converted: Norwegian Sour Ale

So, I have to say that, in my rather limited experience with sour ales, I’ve found the results to be especially satisfying. These beers are a very specific kind of brew that generally follows a set formula:

-fermented with an organism other than traditional yeast

-a blend of older, oak-aged beer with a younger specimen to combine aged sourness with young sweetness

-red or brown coloring from specialty malts

-strong fruity and floral aromas and flavors that overwhelm the beer’s natural hoppiness

Now, by and large, sour ales are considered a Belgian specialty. I for one had always invested in Belgian sours and Flemish reds. I have one more with intent to review in the fridge right now, actually.

The real story, though, is, on a whim, while I was placing an order at Bruisin Ales, I swapped out a duplicate Flemish red for a Norwegian sour as recommended by their proprietor. How was it? I’m not even going to tease. I loved it, and here’s a massive shot of it so you can see what I got. Haandbakk by Haand Bryggeriet. An Oud Bruin (Flanders brown) ale. Delicious vitals after the jump.

The Results:

The appearance of the beer is very appealing. It has a deep reddish brown color but a pure translucency. There’s very little cloudiness, which lends it a bright red luminosity in the light. The head retention is decent, but it’s not enough to let the beer truly develop in the glass. Once it’s there, the aromas will begin escaping, so you better enjoy it quickly.

The nose of the beer is almost purely sour fruit, with green apple and sour cherry. There’s almost no beer smell to it. The unusual preparation lends it an almost dusty, earthy aroma.

The mouth feel of the beer matches the flavor profile very well. It’s actively acidic and carbonated, accenting the sourness while adding structure to the perceived sweetness.

The flavor of the beer is very brisk and very sour. It has hints of herbs and grass, though it’s largely a fruit affair. Apple, cherry candy, almost like a Jolly Rancher. The hops come through on the finish with a hint of dark chocolate. The alcohol, at 8%, is nonexistent on the flavor.

For the Casual Drinker:

This doesn’t even remotely approach the typical flavor of a beer. The response I got from someone not expecting a sour ale said quite plainly that it smelled rotten. The fruits are pungent and, quite frankly, a trifle dusty, overwhelming a surprised palate. You have to go into this expecting anything but a typical beer.

The Conclusion:

Want a unique experience? This certainly qualifies. It’s a bit expensive at $11 for just over a pint, making it on par with those $40 to $50 bottles of juice you always bypass at the wine shop. Special occasion beer? Absolutely, but I recommend getting a bottle to try before you stock the fridge for New Years. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Haandbakk

Producer: Haand Bryggeriet

Region: Norway

Vintage: 2008

Alcohol: 8%

Price: $11 / 16.9 oz


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