25 Beers of Christmas: #15

New Belgium – La Folie

Flanders Oud Bruin (though kind of a Red)

7.00% ABV

New Belgium Brewing – Fort Collins, CO

 

On the eleventh day of our countdown, we’ll turn our focus to one of the most outstanding beers in New Belgium’s portfolio: La Folie.  This beer is NB’s take on the Flanders styles.  The wrinkle is that elements of both the Oud Bruin (Brown) and Red Flanders styles are in play here.  Because the beer is fermented in stainless steel, with the desired souring yeasts and bacteria added at that point, it qualifies technically as a Flanders Oud Bruin, and has many of the characteristics of said style.  However, it is subsequently aged in wood barrels for as many as four years, a characteristic of Flanders Reds (which ferment in the wood container), vs. the usual stainless steel used for aging Oud Bruins.  In this case, the aging is to mature the beer and obtain the character of the barrels, rather than to continue the souring process. As such, I consider this to be a hybrid of the two.

La Folie pours dark brown with garnet highlights, and has a high level of clarity.  The head is limited, but has an attractive pinkish-white tinge.  Truly a beautiful beer to behold.  The aroma is sour and tart, like dark fruit, sour cherries, with a touch of molasses and caramel.  On the taste, puckering tartness leads into a sweet, fruity palate, with a strong acidity on the finish.  Cherries, raspberry, and tart apple are all in the mix.  The crisp acidity is very refreshing, leaving you waiting for the next sip.

I recommend pouring La Folie into a chalice glass or a tulip, though a snifter or larger wine glass will also suit it well.  As long as you take your time, I don’t see a problem with starting this beer on the lower end of temperature, around 38-40 degrees, and then seeing how it develops as it warms.  A bottle of La Folie is 22 oz., so you can pour just a few minutes after taking out of the refrigerator, and then leave the bottle on the counter, adding to the glass as you go.

While the moderately dark malts in this beer will match up well with beef and other savory meat dishes, the sourness and acidity will at the same time help cut through the richness of those meats.  Charbroiled steaks, pork sausages, or a fatty hamburger topped with bacon and blue cheese or a more intense goat cheese will be a great match, as will those cheeses on their own.

New Belgium’s reputation in many ways speaks for itself.  Born from a young couple’s passion for European beer and homebrewing, it has become one of the largest craft brewers in America, beginning on the back of its flagship beer, the amber ale Fat Tire.  I still remember the first time I tried Fat Tire, in an Italian restaurant in downtown Kansas City in March 2003.  In those dark days of craft brewing, it was truly special, an outlier.  They have certainly produced their share of excellent beers since then—Ranger IPA, 1554 Black Lager, and Abbey Ale come to mind—but things really took off when they began the Lips of Faith series, which includes La Folie along with Le Terroir, a dry-hopped sour, the Transatlantique Kriek, a Belgian-style cherry lambic, the smoked Gratzer, the un-hopped Gruit, and one of my favorites (and unfortunately a one-off), the Coconut Curry Hefeweizen.  Their newer Hop Kitchen series has allowed room for massive experimentation as well.

New Belgium beers are available in 40 states as of August 28, 2015, the last update I can find.  La Folie should be available wherever New Belgium beers are sold, but it is a seasonal/annual product so check with your retailer before making the trip.  Or make the trip and if they don’t have La Folie, visit the Belgium section and pick up a few alternatives from the Flanders styles.

JAB – 12/11/15