Monday, July 15, 2013

Goose Island - Fleur Review

Brewery: Goose Island (NY)
Style: Sour Beer / Belgian Pale Ale
ABV: 5.2%
Grade: A-

For one of the largest breweries in the country — and partly owned by AB InBev, no less — Goose Island certainly produces a lot of interesting stuff. Fleur is part of the brewery's "vintage" series, recognizable by their simple, wine-like labels. For all the experimentation this quirky little brew sneaks in, the understated label doesn't mention many details — it's almost like Goose Island wanted to keep its experimentation a secret.

If you all you had to go by was the bottle of Fleur in your hand, all you'd know is that this is a "Belgian style ale" brewed with hibiscus flowers. But Fleur is one of the very, very few commercial beers I've ever seen that's brewed or blended with kombucha. You wouldn't know that from the label. So this is a sour beer — though again, you wouldn't know that from the label. Indeed, Fleur would make a great introductory beer for someone who's never had a sour before.

If you've had many sour beers, you know that many have a distinct flavor profile, full of funky esters and dry, tart fruit, generally braced by a sharp acidity. Fleur manages to recreate the flavor of a sour ale — deeper and more developed than just a barnyard Brett character — with very little actual puckering sourness, which is interesting. It's funky and tart and complex, and sure, a little sour, but nothing compared to many of its peers. The hibiscus adds a nice flowery note to Fleur, and there's a fruity complexity here, with hints of strawberry in the finish (which could be from the hibiscus?). It highlights why I like dry beer: those flavors would either be overcrowded or one-dimensional in a sweeter beer, but in something this tart, they taste natural and ripe.

Fleur is a really nice beer, particularly as something that should appeal to a fairly broad range of beer drinkers. As a sour, it's mild and approachable without being boring. As a Belgian, it's surprisingly complex and brings unique flavors to the table. As just a beer, it's incredibly drinkable and refreshing — Fleur would be a killer session beer if the price was right, and it were made more frequently. I salute you, Goose Island, regardless of your evil corporate masters.

Availability: Oh, cooool. Apparently 2011 was the last year this was made, and it's not clear whether Goose Island is going to make this again? Damn you Goose Island and your evil corporate masters!

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