It’s not like I can’t write about what I want, but I will use my birthday today as an excuse to get back into one of my most favorite beer styles. It is a full-time, day job with benefits to keep me from composing every article about Belgian-style sour ale. Several VBR members have been known to clear out cellars at local watering holes that offer this ruby goodness. But the one issue we face is that it is still extremely hard to find in the state. Yes you can find sours and fruit beer, it is rampant through Northern Virginia and the Richmond area, but for the true-to-life stuff, you have to look a little more south. And east.
Tapestry, Commonwealth Brewing Company (Virginia Beach, VA)
New England Style IPA, 7.1% ABV
Presentation: Bomber bottle pour into pint glass. I rarely talk about correct glassware, but a stem or a tulep would handle this style a little better. Thus is the duel-edged sword about not making sure that you have clean, appropriate glassware when you open it up.
Appearance: This is a first. It was super dark purplish-red. Little to zip head, but modestly carbonated. Whatever brown/white head clung to life on the glass.
Aroma: Beligan-style/Oud Bruins have deep aromas of dark fruits. This beer had a re-fermentation process on plums and raspberries. The raspberries win out on this one. Mix in a lot of base sweetness and funk and there you go.
Taste: Dark sugar, dampish and starting to tart on the front. The middle and back are dominated by the fruits, which work in concert. Think of the raspberries as the treble and the plums as the bass. While the natural acidity of the style and the wine wine of the aging barrels want to take off with the raspberries, the plums and the oak barrels round it out and give it a deep characteristic.
ABV/IBU Mouthfeel: Very sugary and medium heavy, with a good amount of sharpness, finishing sweet, tart, but with a woodiness to it as well. The 7% sweet spot for ABV is perfect. No time for hops in these beers.
Overall: Most people could read a description and see ‘three different base mixed culture beers’ and think it is not a pure Belgian-style beer. That is the complete opposite. I have taken master classes from the head brewer with Brouwerij De Brabandere in Belgium, and it is an extremely common practice. While they market it to cheesy US culture by selling blended packs, doing this in house before retail is regarded as more artisan than huckleberry. Commonwealth goes a step further with the re-fermentation in a foeder. The right process and the right equipment can make a huge difference, and you can tell. Now, as this is coming out late, you might be able to scrape a few bottles off some shelves, but this is more a testament to their overall sour line up. If you see anything in this realm make it to your beer market, grab it without hesitation.