Monday, January 2, 2012

New Belgium - (Lips of Faith) Le Terroir Review

Brewery: New Belgium (CO)
Style: Sour Beer 

ABV: 7.5%
Grade: A-

I think one of the main reasons I enjoy sour beer is that "puckering" sensation you get in your mouth from heavily soured ales — more complex, flavorful and rich than any non-fermented food could produce. It's an instant endorphin rush to my brain. Le Terroir delivers that: an aroma of funk, a huge puckering mouthfeel, and a surprisingly intense acidity that slaps over the tongue with a harshness that's aggressive but pleasant. If you like sours, this hits everything at once: sour, tart, dry, acidic, funky, fruity, and a bit oak-y. It's not the most balanced beer I've had, and not as well-rounded as the best Belgian sours — it could use a bit more funky Brett character to round out the acidity — but I can't help but love everything this is delivering to my tongue, all at once.

Le Terroir is dry-hopped with Amarillo and Cascade, and I think the interplay between mildly-hoppy citrus flavors alongside the acidic bite from the souring process are what make this a unique, aggressive beer. The initial taste is much more potent than many American wile ales, with hints of orange, peach, maybe a bit of mango — bolstered, I imagine, by the hops. Malts don't come into play much here at all, which is fine. There is the slightest hint of mild sweetness lingering behind the full-frontal sourness, but it's a backdrop. This is a sour-delivery vehicle, without any of the off-notes that poorly-done sours can sometimes pick up. Still, you could make the argument that it's not as complex as it could be or should be — not compared to really exceptional sours. With more funk from the Brett, Le Terroir would benefit from added complexity and a softened acid bite, I think.

Even if there are technically-better examples out there, Le Terroir delivers so much flavor into my face that there's no way I can't love it. Also, let it be said that Le Terroir has one of the coolest beer bottles I've seen.

Availability: Only available in bombers, part of New Belgium's "Lips of Faith" series. "Rotating" availability, though since I picked this up on a business trip while out of state (New Belgium doesn't distribute to New York or PA), I have no idea how common this is.

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