When I joined Ratebeer.com over a year ago, one of the first things I learned was that many more styles of beer existed than I had previously reckoned. There are in fact, 73 different styles of beer lovingly crafted for your enjoyment. So far I’ve worked through 65 different styles, with sours ranking as my favorite for its unique complexities and delightful inconsistencies across this particular style. However, belgian strong ales take the cake for the beer I seem to drink the most. Anyways, here is the rundown of the Mighty 73. Look them up on RateBeer for the deluge of descriptions.
Abbey Dubbel/Abbey Tripel
American Dark Lager
American Pale Ale
American Strong Ale
Belgian Strong Ale
Belgian White (Witbier)
Bière de Garde
Classic German Pilsener
English Pale Ale
English Strong Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Lambic – Faro
Lambic – Fruit
Lambic – Gueuze
Lambic – Unblended
Malt Liquor — edward 40 hands is the only reason to drink this, and probably not even then.
Scotch Ale — if you value your life, don’t EVER call a Scottish person a Scotch…a person is not something you drink, unless you’re a vampire.
So what if all the rum’s gone….you’ve got 73 types of beer to choose from, so drink up me hearties, yo ho!
When you create an account with Ratebeer they ask you your favorite style of beer. In the beginning, I was a barley wine girl then a fruit lambic lady and now I feel like I might be delving into the world of sours. Barley wines were appealing, and still are, because of the high abv and they tend to have interesting sweetnesses going on. Fruit lambics were of particular interest because they produced flavors reminiscent of those found in our family orchard and the lambic style is so varied and surprising. Sour ales also fall into this category of surprise and a variety of flavors that can vastly differ from one to the next. My recent excursion to Lola had the added bonus of Jolly Pumpkin’s sour ale, La Roja. I hadn’t had one since July and it was such a pleasant reminder of the greatness of sour ales. Off to expand the horizons once again.
The Line Up
Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne:
I wrote about this weird yet great sour earlier in “Salty Bitches” but here’s a run-down again of my notes on it. Straight from the bottle enjoyed on a summit over Lago Lugano, Switzerland. This was recommended to me by the wife/owner of A Tutta Birra in Milano as her favorite. Most interesting beer I’ve had so far in Italy. The aroma reminded me of rotting trash and at first sip so did the flavor. Further sips revealed sour cherries, dark fruits, apricot and vanilla. Incredibly smooth on the palate, absolutely no kick at the end. Much too sweet for me, almost could be considered a dessert beer in the same vein as dessert wines.
De Ranke Kriek:
Pours a muddy purple/red with no head. On the nose: same white grape tartness as lambic gueuzes but the flavor is really watered down. Flat but crisp. Don’t get the cherry taste but more lemon and white grape. Love the crisp cool character and the slightly boozier aroma of this as compared to the guezes. Very drinkable but not very complex.
Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor (Batch 4):
On draft at Beer Engine Sour Ale tasting. Pours a dark brown/black with ruby tinges on the side. No head. Nose: cognac as is the flavor with that white grape/almost smokey aftertaste. Flat, slightly tart and crisp. Yum. The tartness is really present in the corners of the mouth which inspires you to keep sipping away.
Rodenbach Grand Cru:
Bottle at The Beer Engine: Color: same as Rochefort 8 with no head. Aroma is funky bleu cheese and sour white grapes. Smooth slightly tart but boozier flavor at the beginning of the sip then tart bite at the back of the palate. Very refreshing and completely different than the last Flemish Red I had, Duchesse de Bourgogne. Love the diversity of this style – it felt like a borderline lambic.
Jolly Pumpkin La Roja:
750 at Lola into white wine glass. I love the label as I love all the Jolly Pumpkin label but this one is just great. The color is simply beautiful like a cross between a hoppy IPA and a mead. Fluffy orangey/tan head with a nice fruity aroma almost a kin to red wine sangria. Flavor is similar with some dark wood background notes and again that really nice fermented fruit sweet/sour combination. Such a delight.
It’s a beautiful thing and all you have to do is force feed a duck to fatten up its liver for it! Sometimes I wish I could feel bad about that, but then Anthony Bourdain does a little expo and shows that it’s not so bad and plus it’s just so scrumptious that the sinner in me is a happy to be ingesting such a smooth delight. I had only one bad experience with foie gras and that was in a very lovely little ristorante around the corner from my apartment in Milano. Apparently, in Milan and perhaps most of Italy, foie gras is prepared very differently — it’s not the deliciously hot grilled fatty lobe I’ve come to love. I believe it was a paté and I’m sad to report I really just couldn’t finish it: the richness alone and in that quantity was overpowering and it was cold which threw me off too. With the kind of foie gras I love I feel like a nice lambic or maybe even a sour would be a fitting pairing with this creamy, fatty, buttery gift from the gods.
However, I had a gorgeous rendition of the heated type in Toano, VA at Dudley’s Farmhouse Grille. If you’re ever near this place, go! They specialize in wild game and have a small seating area which provides for a more intimate atmosphere, which is furthered by the owner who is also the chef. I wish my liver could wind up in such a happy state after I’m gone. Anyways, the foie gras was my primo and my secondo was a mixed plate of venison, wild boar and quail. Then I slipped into a loverly food coma.
Over my birthday weekend, the program I was studying with in Milan took us to Parma for a Culture/Cuisine Trip where we toured the Parmigiano Reggiano factory and watch the magic unfold. I bought a solid 5 lbs. of cheese but the only thing that was missing was a good tart sour ale like Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor, Rodenbach Grand Cru or perhaps an impy like Victory Storm King Imperial Stout. Here’s a quick run through of the process that goes into parmesan cheese:
The head cheese of the Parmagiano Reggiano factory, separating extra whey to be fed to the piggies.
Skimming the cheese with a wooden rod to check consistency.
Bagging the cheese in cloth to drain before being pressed into the molds.
Brine bath where the proteins and little fat basically cure and harden until aging begins.
Cheese cheeeese gloriousss cheeeeeeseeeeee!!!
Back in the States, I’ve had some very good cheese from La Cave du Vin and Whole Foods. At La Cave I ordered a bleu and brie board with a Great Divide Hercules IPA. The maximum hoppy happiness of the pint worked well against the funky and very sweet smooth cheeses. From Whole Foods I enjoyed a beautiful smoked creamy gouda with a Cantillon Gueuze.
My mother raised my brother and me in a household that was ethnocentric — we grew up knowing all the names of different spices, we knew what a wok was, we were accustomed to curries, etc. — but the one that stood out the most was Italian. My mother and father spent some quality time in Italy and it stuck with them for a very long time. The simplest recipe my mother loves to prepare to this day, and I love to wow friends with, is the tuscan farmer’s breakfast of fettunta and red wine. If you’re doing a breakfast of champions a different way, I would go for a nice bitter or even a sour ale if you’re game to compliment the salty/garlic beauty of this simple fare.
Grab a loaf of some good thick rustic french bread (I love Italian food but the bread I will leave to the French, they are the masters): the kind with a dusting of flour and a basic ingredients list, we are NOT looking for a sourdough.
Cut a few thick 1/2 inch slices then cut in half and pop into the toaster. If you don’t have a toaster improvise and toss it into a hot skillet or even hold over a gas stove flame (try not to burn down the house).
Once out of the toaster golden brown, you’ll want a big garlic clove or two, with the skins off. Take the clove and start rubbing down that piece of bread, it’ll start to shred with the vigor of the rub but that is ok, this is the desired effect.
Next drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, do not soak it with the stuff.
Then just take some sea salt and sprinkle over top. This is the basic recipe but you can get creative with pepper and other spices if you so choose.
This is not the shitty creamy garlic soaked bread you get at the grocery store, so be prepared to fall in love and wish you were a Tuscan farmer.
I stumbled upon this great little snack while packing for a hiking trip and wanted something to celebrate, imbibe and munch on at the summit. Thus, the beautiful pairing of the sour ale Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne and salty cashews.
The aroma reminded me of rotting trash and at first sip so did the flavor. Further sips revealed sour cherries, dark fruits, apricot and vanilla. Incredibly smooth on the palate, absolutely no kick at the end. Much too sweet for me, almost could be considered a dessert beer in the same vein as dessert wines. However, the slightly sweet/nutty and super salty character of the cashews really made this a refreshing snack after a long sweaty hike.