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Four years ago, when a friend enthusiastically uttered the words “sour” and “beer” in the same sentence, I did my best to force an excited response that matched his fervent sales pitch. In fact, I wasn’t really that interested. I’m all for the occasional bag of Sour Patch Kids as a movie snack, but at that point, my palate was fit more for generic yellow beer. Nevertheless, I believe in trying things, so I sipped the brew: Mouth-puckering sour. Not for me.
My beer palette has evolved in the years since that moment. I’ve tasted much of what our brew-centric state has to offer—hoppy pale ales, balanced IPAs, milky stouts, smooth porters, and wonderfully complex Belgians and barrel-aged beers. All of which have taught me to appreciate brews with more intricate flavors, like sours. Now, when I try a sour beer, the flavors I first perceived as akin to candy covered in cheap sour sugar, now taste fruity, more like sour apples and cherries. I’ve started seeking out sour beers at bars and restaurants. I tasted half a dozen or so at last year’s Great American Beer Festival, and found none better than New Belgium’s La Folie—a sour brown ale that is aged in French oak barrels for between one and three years before it’s bottled. The oak barrels are the same as a vintner would use for wine making. “French oak is a bit more porous than American oak,” says New Belgium spokesperson Bryan Simpson. “And the sour bacteria feeds off the oxygen.”
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Recently, I saw a bomber of the 2012 batch of La Folie on a liquor store shelf and snatched it up (New Belgium releases La Folie throughout the year, but it tends to disappear quickly). I saved the beer to enjoy during a weekend trip to the mountains and was reminded why I fell in love with this particular liquid: La Folie’s tart flavor and acidity are complemented by an earthy taste—a truly elegant beer that’s one of my favorites, no matter the style.
—Image Courtesy of New Belgium Brewing Company