Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Belgium Brewery Lips of Faith Series: #1 Vrienden

This past weekend I discovered Spec's. After my wife and I went out for dinner we wandered across the parking lot and into a Spec's store to check it out. They have a great selection of wine, spirits, gourmet food, and beer. I ogled over the coolers until a New Belgium bottle that I had never seen before caught my eye. I decided to pick it up along with a few others and see just what it was all about.

I am a huge fan of New Belgium brewery. They produce some really high quality and interesting brews. That is why I have chosen to highlight their Lips of Faith series.

When I was living in New York their products where all but impossible to come by. In fact they have scarce if not non existent distribution in the north eastern United States. In Austin, TX New Belgium beer is readily available just about everywhere. Which I am very pleased about because New Belgium Abbey and Ranger IPA are two of my favorite beers right now.

The Lips of Faith series focuses on creative small batch brewing with exotic adjuncts and spices. There are also some "collabeeration" brews. Which brings me to my first pick in the series.

Vrienden (Collaboratively brewed by New Belgium and Allagash)

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 8.5%

IBU: 12.2

Vessel: Mug (poured from a 220z bottle)

Appearance: Beautiful deep copper color that is mildly hazy and appears to be around 17 SRM.Creamy honey colored 3/4 inch high long lasting head with great lacing. (4.5/5)

Aroma: Sour and floral with fruity notes through out. A bit more citrus than strawberry but both are detectable. (3.5/5)

Flavor: Tart and a bit on the sweet side. I found very little malt flavor, although I did detect a bit of Carmel and grain. Alcohol flavor was very present. I didn't detect any hibiscus flavor but I swear that I could taste the endive. Bitterness and alcohol linger a bit. (3.5/5)

Mouth Feel: Medium-light bodied and slightly warming. Mildly astringent. Carbonation level seems a tad high.(3/5)

Overall: Vrienden is Flemish for "friends" and that is how I think this should be enjoyed. Crack open a 22oz bottle and split it between three or four friends while snacking on crackers and warm Brie. This one was difficult to compare to a particular style because I found it to be closer to a Gueze than an American Wild Ale. That is the beauty of it though. Is it its own new style or an abomination? That is for each individual to decide and that is why I love craft beer. Traditon and Innovation battling back and forth across that palate.

I feel that this could stand to be a bit less sweet and a have a bit more body. Where this brew really stands out is in aroma and appearance. It looks beautiful in the glass and has a wonderful aroma. The label boasts that it is brewed with brettanomyces and lactobacillus which is all well and good but I doubt that most people even know what either is. Let alone have any idea what they do for the brew and if it is better because of them. I for one do not and I did not detect any flavor or aroma that was completely new to me. So it seems like a bit of a silly marketing gimmick. I'm looking forward to trying others from the series. (14.5/20) 72.5%

 - Jay

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