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The Beer Circle » American Wild Ale, Beer, Beer Week, New Belgium Brewing Co. » DC Beer Week: New Belgium Sour Blending Workshop

DC Beer Week: New Belgium Sour Blending Workshop

Foeder Card

Foeder Card

DC Beer Week is one of my favorite times of the year, I click through dcbeer.com‘s day-by-day chart of events like a child opening presents on Christmas day. This year, the event that piqued my interest more than any other was a sour blending workshop with New Belgium’s sensory specialist Lauren Salazar at Black Squirrel. It cost $55 and was one of only five venues for this rare event. I had a great time when I met Lauren at Churchkey for a deconstruction of La Folie 2012, so I knew I couldn’t miss this.

I chose the second of the two sessions, so once the first offering was complete, I walked into Black Squirrel and grabbed a seat at the bar. We got things started with a pint of Fat Tire and some charcuterie. Far Tire is nothing special, but a nice way to get the palate ready for the assault if sour that is to come.

The actual event opened with a presentation from Lauren and her husband, Eric. Basically during the presentation I was allowed unlimited La Folie, so naturally it was a great start. La Folie is a great baseline sour. It’s not aggressively in your face sour, but it has a nice tart character that is approachable by a sour novice. I learned a lot from the Lauren and Eric before we got into the other sours, here are some of my notes:

New Belgium’s knowledge of sours comes from the Belgian brewery, Rodenbach. New Belgium’s initial sour strains: Lacto and Pedio came from Rodenbach. They got Brett from a University study of Berliner Weiss. Despite all of this well-tested knowledge of strains, Lauren’s notes from the first ever New Belgium-brewed sour beer she tasted were: “Worst fucking thing I’ve ever tasted.” Lauren doesn’t typically work with a censor.

A new word for me at this event was Foeder. Foeder is a French word for large barrel. New Belgium has an entire room full of foeders, some of which they name: “Sure Thing,” for example, has been used in the blend for La Folie in every batch since 1999. All of the foeders are ex Red Wine barrels made of French white oak.

A revolution of New Belgium’s sour brewing process came from Vinny of Russian River and his Vinny Nail. Previously, New Belgium used a pipe to test the sours in the barrel, but they faced issues with their beer becoming vinegary. They had been breaking the beer’s pelicle, which protects it from air. Sour + air = vinegar.

At long last, it was time for the sours. I took crude notes on the beers from each foeder, with the hopes that I’d be able to blend a damn fine beer. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Foeder 5: Clearly the youngest beer served. Sweetest of them all. Very fruity. Under carbonated.
  • Foeder 15: Dark fruits. Tart, but not very acidic. Dry, balanced.
  • Foeder 17 “Pixie Dust”: Very tart. Mouth watering and delicious. Slight fruit. They could sell this in a bottle.
  • Foeder 28: Much fruitier than 15. Dank almost. Hints of tartness.
My Blend: Sour Dussell

My Blend: Sour Dussell

The blend that I concocted was dubbed “Sour Dussell” and focused on making the most sour beer as possible. I blended a little more than three ounces of foeder 17 for the bite, two ounces of foeder 5 for the sweetness, 1.5 ounces of the foeder 28 because I found it to be the most balanced, and one ounce of La Folie to bump up the carbonation.

The beers behind Sour Dussell

The beers behind Sour Dussell

Other iterations of this event had the attendees taking home a stainless steel growler of their blended beer, but apparently that was not allowed in DC. We got to keep the glass, which was a nice compromise. Lauren and New Belgium continue to impress. You cannot miss them when they come to your city…even if that means making the inconvenient trip to DC’s Adams Morgan.

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Written by Russ Beck

Russ can trace his beginnings in craft beer to sitting in Zeno’s Pub in State College drinking various craft beer options from across Pennsylvania. Since then, he has never faltered in finding new brews, whether they’re rare, delicious, or hopefully both. Russ will be writing on a large variety of subjects, including but not limited to: reviews, homebrewing, and how to take labels off of beer bottles. He’ll drink just about anything, but prefers a nice Stout, IPA, or Weizenbock. Find Russ Beck on Google Plus

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