Four Years of Sour Beers

17 Dec

Last Thursday Miranda forwarded me an e-mail about a vertical tasting of the Cascade Barrel Houses’ Sang Noir.   I sat at my desk at work and thought, “should I stay late to get work done? or push it to Friday?”  With only one barrel of the 2007 Sang Noir left, I thought it best to push the work to Friday.  And off I went to the Cascade Barrel House.  Besides, well-aged beer just makes me happy.

I will admit right up front the Sang Noir was one of the first sour beers I ever tried and to this day, it remains my favorite.  Now I was getting to try four years of this excellent beer side by side.

At first look at the small stemmed four-ounce glasses, the beer was a rich red brown.  In a larger glass it has a more red-black color.  Each was very similar with the 2008 a wee bit darker than the other three.

2007 Sang Noir:  This beer did not have much of a sour nose at all. More of brown sugar and fruit – very nice.  The initial tastes of this beer were strong sour cherries and fruit, and it finished with a slight brown sugary sweetness fairly similar to the way it smelled.  Then the sour grabbed the salivary gland under my tongue, a similar sensation to drinking a little bit of unsweetened lemon juice.  The flavors lingered pleasantly.  And the mouth feel was quite big for a sour.  I generally find sour beers to be a bit thin, a drawback for me, but not here.  Overall, this was an excellent beer.

2008 Sang Noir:  Almost no nose to this beer.  The sour is slightly stronger than the 2007.  Fruit was present here but delicate, almost floral in character.  I really like the flavors in this vintage, but I am having a hard time picking them out.  It could the tannins and oak contributed by the barrel and a little alcohol to finish it off.

2009 Sang Noir: From the beginning this beer was very similar to the 2008.  A stronger sour, complex flavor that was not outwardly cherry or even fruit, more floral and dry.

2010 Sang Noir:  A floral nose, and a bit sweet smelling, but nothing like the 2007.  The flavor sits somewhere between the 2008/2009 set and the 2007.  Fruity with noticeable flavors from the barrel.  I did detect a very mild vanilla along with the fruit in this batch.  The fruit was unlike the straightforward cherry of the 2007.  It was more of a generic dark fruit flavor of cherry, plum, maybe even blackberry. And like the previous year, this one had a nice sour finish.

Today I have to say the 2007 was my favorite of the four.  I think it was how distinct sour cherry struck me today.  The 2010 brew was a very close second and maybe would have been first another day.  The 2008/2009 set was too similar for to me to separate.  Both were excellent brews and I would gladly drink a pint or two, but they were definitely second tier to the 2007 and 2010 brews.  As for the flight as a whole, it was easily worth the ten dollars I paid.

A note on the tasting: these beers have a strong flavor.  I have no doubt the taste of the previous beer affected the flavors to the next.  I think I should have had a second flight to try it in the reverse order to see if I would have the same conclusion.   At the very least I would get another pour of the 2007 Sang Noir.

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