Mad Fox Oaked Diabolik

Where in Town: Mad Fox Brewing Company, 444 West Broad St., Falls Church

Price: $12/22 oz.

Old Dog, Brew Tricks

Clean European styles, killer American IPAs, properly-treated cask beer, big barrel-aged brews—Is there nothing Mad Fox’s Bill Madden can’t brew? Last week’s release of his first sour beer provided a good test case. Oaked Diabolik is Madden’s longstanding Belgian strong ale recipe, but it’s re-fermented with airborne yeast and bacteria and aged for six months in oak barrels. The 20-year veteran waited so long to launch a sour program for the same reason most brewers do: fear. Much time and energy is spent trying to keep wild yeast and bacteria out of breweries. These bugs can easily spread, contaminating equipment that must remain squeaky clean to make any other style of beer. Was it worth the risk? Yes!

Pucker Up, Sweet Tart

Oaked Diabolik has the deep gold color and frothy white head typical of Belgian-style strong ales. But bring it to your nose, and after a pungent sting, those bold enough to keep sniffing will detect tart apple and white grape. A sip starts out prickly and acidic but soon gives way to sweet fruit flavors and a rich warmth—thanks to the 9 percent alcohol content—followed by a dry, woody finish. But don’t drink this one on an empty stomach; instead, pair it with a chèvre or a creamy, rich soft-ripened cheese. Limited bottles of Oaked Diabolic are available at the brewpub in Falls Church and a few kegs have made their way to D.C.’s Meridian Pint and Smoke & Barrel. A few more might pop up at Mad Fox’s long-awaited Glover Park location, due to open this spring. Not into sours (yet)? That’s okay—pick up something heavier and sweeter at Mad Fox’s barleywine festival Feb. 21 and 22 at the brewpub.

Photo courtesy Tammy Tuck