New Belgium La Folie

Where in Town: D’Vines, 3103 14th St. NW

Price: $13.99/22 oz.

The Barrel Whisperer

One of the hardest-working palates in the country belongs to Lauren Salazar, who oversees New Belgium Brewing Company’s stockpile of more than 30 giant French-oak red wine barrels, which the Colorado brewery uses to age beer. Called foeders, some of them have names like “Sure Thing” or “Pixie Dust,” denoting the unique souring qualities their wood, yeast, and bacteria impart. Salazar regularly tastes samples, from months to years old, from each vessel and chooses how to blend them together into a final product. It’s a lot of effort for something that can be a hard sell; People tend to either love or hate sour beers, and even those who swear by them at one time couldn’t stomach them—including Salazar (and me). But whether you’re a proud puckerer or put off by the thought, I suggest giving New Belgium’s sours a shot.

Sour Power

New Belgium’s original sour, La Folie, was first produced in 1997, before most American breweries had begun experimenting with blending wood-aged beers. Since then, La Folie has won a slew of awards, including a World Beer Cup gold medal for Belgian-style sour ale—beating out even the classic brews from Belgium’s Flanders region that inspired it. This year’s La Folie is drawn from 13 different foeders and is perhaps the best and most complex yet. Amber brown with brilliant red hues, the beer has tart cherry, plum, and oak aromas. Its rich grape, caramel, and cherry flavors are complemented by funky, sour notes—primarily green apple. The medium-bodied, 7 percent alcohol brew is Champagne-like in carbonation and finishes dry with a woody, acidic aftertaste. Still unsure? Pick up a bottle with an aged goat or sheep’s milk washed rind cheese and prepare to be converted.

Photo by Tammy Tuck