Friday, November 8, 2013

055. Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale

Two weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Brigadoon Brewery at the Texas Renaissance Festival near Plantersville, Texas. Renn Fest is one of my favorite things to do to ring the the autumn season because it gives me a great excuse to go out, sample lots of beers (or just drink plenty of my old favorites) and watch great entertainment like Ded Bob or Iris & Rose.

While I was there, one of the brewers starting talking about his love of mixing beers. This is something I've had little experience with. Sure, I've had a few Black & Tans in my younger days, and sure, I'm familiar with how vintners take different wines and blend them together to create a perfect wine. But I've never really given much thought to blending beers to create something new.

That's why this week's beer choice was a pleasant surprise: Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale is, according to the label, a blended beer:

We blend young and old beers to make this mildy tart sour ale. Light bodied with a lactic/sour nose and a bit of sweet and sour in the finish. Very refreshing!

I've never had a Flemish Sour Ale before, so I didn't have any preconceptions about what to expect. Other than it being "sour," of course. Popping the top released a strong scent of pepper with other spices hiding below. I then detected subtle scents of citrus and other aromas that I couldn't quickly place.

My first sip was a pleasant surprise. Based on the dark color and peppery smell, I expected something harsh like an IPA. Instead, I got a wonderful taste of summer that reminded me instantly of a Shandy (that is, a mildly alcoholic beverage popular in England during the summer -- think a lemony soft drink/wine cooler hybrid).  This has a wonderful, tangy bite of lemon citrus (with maybe some grapefruit lurking in the lower levels) that instantly made me long for the hazy, lazy days of summer.

Even though this is a Belgium import, this would be welcome in the cooler of anyone inner tubing down the Guadalupe River in July. In fact, except for the dark color, this really reminds me more of a Mexican import than an Euro beer. My hat definitely goes off to the monks on blending this excellent concoction of new and old beers.

At about $5 - $7 for an 11 oz. bottle (if memory serves me right; I bought this a while back and can't find my receipt), I don't think this will become a staple of my summer drinking, but I would definitely be willing to invest in a few bottles for the next summer solstice. This is a great, light-tasting beer with a really pleasing taste of lemon. I'd really enjoy the opportunity of discovering which foods pair best with its tangy goodness.

Thoughts from the bottom of the glass:
Type: Flemish Sour Ale
Color: Deep Copper/brown
Aroma: Pepper with hints of spices & citrus
Hops: Milder than I expected
Malt: Mild and in balance with the hops
Head: Thick and creamy, but fades quickly
Lace: Nice, but fades quickly
Carbonation: Light
Mouthfeel:  Crisp and refreshing
Temperature Sweet Spot: Around 55 degrees F.
ABV: 5.5%
My Summer Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Other Reviews Worth A Sip:
The guys over at Beer Advocate seemed to like this, for the most part. No one really came out against it (one or two bemoaned that it wasn't sour enough), but few praised it outright. Most of them seemed to have the same idea I did: This was a pleasant change of pace from the usual fare. I was surprised that so many of them detected raisins in the scent/taste. I didn't get that at all. But then again, that's what makes reading beer reviews so much fun -- someone will have a different take on things than you did.  Here's what they had to say:

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