|Brewery:||New Belgium Brewing Company|
|Location:||Fort Collins, CO|
|Hops:||Liberty, Target, Goldinas|
|Malts:||Carmel 80, Oats, Wheat, Pale, Special-B, Munich, Chpcolate Wheat|
|Fruits & Spices:||Shisandra|
|Appearance:||Hazy, Deep & Beautiful Mahogany|
|Aroma:||Bubblegum with notes of Banana, Pepper & Earth|
|Flavor:||Sweet Malt, Wild Yeast, Earthy Hops & Shisandra|
|Pairs With:||Hearty Meat Dishes, Beef Stew, Steak, French Morbier Cheese|
This beer is one of the newest additions to New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series. It seems most craft breweries have that limited release series where brewers are allowed to stretch creative wings, reinvent styles, and generally do what every brewer dreams about.
Maybe the main difference between this series and others like it is the extreme and exotic (perhaps strange) ingredients New Belgium brewers are willing to put in their explorations.
Many say that this series is extremely hit or miss, that some have been great, others have been downright awful. With only one (here in a few minutes that will be two) under my belt I’m in no position to judge.
I don’t remember what the other one I tried was, but I remember liking it. And even if one didn’t sound that great to me I’d still give it a shot. Each is unexplored territory. Offering the chance of something good, but not just good, something beyond the norm. Getting one, or two, or six that you don’t much care for shouldn’t stop you from delving back into uncharted waters. The next one could be the one you’ve been waiting for all along. Maybe this one is it.
The unexplored territory in this one comes in the form of Shisandra fruit and a Trappist yeast with wild brettanomyces. The brettanomyces puts the funk and tartness many Belgian beers are known for (though usually not Dubbels). Shisandra is a woody vine native to China, Russia, and parts of Korea. It is highly valued for its medicinal properties which are believed to help with liver disease and normalizing blood sugar to treating asthma, insomnia, nerve pain, depression, and memory loss.
It is even said to prevent early aging and increase lifespan. Sounds like there are all kinds of reasons to drink this beer. But the most interesting thing about the small red Shisandra berry, at least from a brewing perspective, is its purported possession of all five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and spicy. Hmmmm, intriguing.
The Pour and Aroma
A beautiful deep mahogany filtered through small amounts of haze indicative of Trappist yeast. It glints almost purple when held up to bright light. One finger of off-white foam builds but doesn’t hold for more than a minute.
Aroma centers on the Trappist yeast; bubblegum with low tones of banana across a background of pepper, earth, and dark fruit character. Elusive hints at brown sugar speak, but not loudly, of the malt interred herein. A whisper of tartness pervades, showing the brett side of the Trappist yeast.
Mouthfeel and Taste
The body and mouthfeel is full and luxurious, like a dark blanket for the palate.
Malt comes through a bit more here than in the nose and the yeast is just as evident. The roundness of the sweet malt character is a quick reminder of this beer’s place before it flies off on another character tangent of wild yeast and uncommon personality.
The banana comes through but is somewhat more muted then in the aroma, and combined with the pepper-like spice makes for an interesting front-loaded tasting experience. Mid palate the pepper transforms to more of a saltiness and I can only guess that this is the Shisandra transitioning through its spicy notes and into the salty. It isn’t as off-putting as you’d think and unless you really pay attention it melds nicely into the overall character.
The complexities here are awesome, subtle, and often hard to pick-up on. There’s the earthy herbal sense of hops and the Shisandra (probably) along with clove, and root beer. Plum and raisin enliven and deepen the sense of being “in the earth”.
A tart drying finish, showcases the brett character of the yeast again. I am left with an aftertaste of herbal-mustyness and covert bitterness.
Finishing The Impression
This beer easily takes its place in this ongoing series of off-the-wall creative explorations. While remaining firmly tied to its routes as a Belgian Dubbel it takes the palate to new places. I found the salt element pretty interesting, the complexity is awesome, and the hint of tartness nicely mellow. I’d love to try these berries on their own and see if it’s possible to recognize all five flavors. Anybody out there ever try these berries?
I find something very comforting in this beer. Maybe it’s because this this is my first Belgian Dubbel in a while, but the tastes and rich depth of mouthfeel sure was inviting. It makes me that much more eager to hunt down more of this series and see what I’ve been missing.
Anyone else following this series closely? What were your some worth trying? And if you haven’t picked this one up yet I’d encourage a quick trip to your regular beer haunt. In my humble opinion it’s well worth it.