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La Folie is Hardly Folly

new belgium la folieI think I have been fairly clear over the last few months just what I think of New Belgium Brewing (if you are not sure read here and here). Their entry into Alberta has been nothing short of fascinating for someone who watches the beer scene. There has been a level of buzz about their arrival among Alberta beer drinkers unparalleled by anything else I have seen. Is it too much? Maybe. The price point sure seems higher than it need be. But there is no questioning that Albertans have embraced New Belgium.

Most of the interest is over their Fat Tire and, to a lesser extent, Ranger IPA. But the agency has brought in some other stuff from them as well, which is flying more under the radar. I recently picked up a bottle of their La Folie (2014), which is a wood-aged sour as part of their Lips of Faith Series.

The label says it is aged from one to three years in french oak. I take that to mean the final product is a blend of younger and older but I can’t be entirely certain of that. My instinct is that this is being brewed as a Flanders Sour, most likely a Red.

To begin, the appearance is perplexing and intriguing. It is dark burgundy red with a tight, unbelievably tight tan head that hangs around for hours and leaves behind some intense lacing. The head is almost like that from a stout. The aroma gives away the beer immediately. It i s distinctly tart with a earthy, woody, nutty, caramel malt undertone. The other aspects create complexity in the aroma, but really, this is about the sour. Like a darker, richer version of Duchess or Rodenbach. First impressions suggest a beer landing somewhere in the middle between Flanders Red and Oud Bruin.

A slightly sweet nutty malt flashes across the tip of my tongue, but only for the briefest of nanoseconds. Then in comes the behemoth of tart. It has two layers, starting clean and lactic but then becoming more woody and phenolic. The strongest point is just before the swallow, where it feels the sourness will suck your tongue straight into the roof of your mouth. The linger eases off a bit, allowing touches of soft malt to return to create a bit of beer character.

La Folie is an intense, tart experience. Not as clean as traditional versions – more rustic and rangy in its feel. A full 650 ml bottle is too much for one person – needs to be shared. Overall I think lacks the finesse of traditional Belgian sours I have sampled but still a fascinating beer. If you like your sours, then it is likely worth a shot.

6 comments to La Folie is Hardly Folly

  • Mark

    It definitely lacks the finesse of the best Flanders Reds I have tasted. Put it in a sour beer tasting, and it always ranks poorly.

    I always find the sourness in La Folie to be way too sharp. I have learned that they intenionally encourage acetic acid production, which explains it.

    If you want to experience a seriously sour beer, then La Folie is certainly worth trying, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you are new to the style.

    • Matt S

      I remember reading somewhere that La Folie has one of the lowest pH’s of any production beer, and its not hard to believe that. I love its extreme sourness, and respect that they pasteurize the beer to freeze it exactly where they want it. Kind of a unique approach to this style of beer.

  • C

    And I love the sharpness. I find a 650ml easy to down. I am also a huge fan of young Lou Pepe gueuze, which is also an incredibly tart/sharp sour.

    • beerguy

      That is what I love about craft beer people – we have widely ranging preferences and still get along. One person’s too sharp is another person’s so-called sweet spot (sorry!).

  • Dave

    Much the same as the hoppiest beer is not the best example of an IPA, the most ridiculously sour beer is not the best example of a whole family of beers. It adds to the lexicon, but there are tremendously better examples that exhibit the richness of flavour only brought on by lengthy aging processes and extended fermentations.

    The early La Folie batches exhibited this trait because they weren’t pasteurized and had sediment in the bottle. The results are much more complex and enjoyable. The current batches are wholly unbalanced and lacking the flair of the earlier ones. Unfortunately, introducing new people to sours with this beer does a disservice to their palette by helping them from the opinion that only the beers with the least finesse are good. Much in the same way that new craft drinkers seem to assume the most bitter and tongue peeling IPA is the best example.

  • I was fortunate enough to have a private tour of the Fort Collins plant last month. And to try the product directly out of the wooden vats and barrels. The first sip knocked my socks off, as I have never tried a sour beer before. But the second sip was better, and by the time I got to the 7th (or was it 17th?) sip, I was quite enjoying it. Not a huge fan of the Fat Tire, and to me, the Ranger was undrinkable (no balance). The Blue Paddle was excellent, but my favourite was their 1554.

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