When I first heard of sour beers on Craft Beer Radio the only thing I could think of was “gross.” Greg and Jeff assured us listeners that they were great, though, and Greg went so far as to say that in his experience, no one has ever regretted drinking a sour beer with his encouragement. So, a year and a half or so ago I tried a Rodenbach from Lukas (I don’t see it on the shelf there anymore. Grrrr….) and I’ve been hooked since. Whether it’s the sour Rodenbach (never reviewed it here?), the enamel-stripping La Folie (New Belgium), or the wonderful, smoothly sour Berliner Weiss from New Glarus’ Unplugged series (review forthcoming), true to what CBR said, I have liked them all. So, it was with much pleasure that I bought a single of Monk’s Cafe Flemish Sour Ale from Tipsy’s in Merriam (when I checked out, the gal on the register commented, “Boy, that is one expensive little bottle of beer.” For the record, it was only $2.50, a steal by any standards!)
I couldn’t find out tons of info about this beer, other than that it is contract brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberg in Ghent, Belgium, for Monk’s Cafe, a Belgian restaurant/beer place in Philadelphia. According to the bottle it is a mix of old and new brown ales, and the Beeradvocate site labels it an oud bruin or Flanders brown style. Sour beers are most frequently mixed from old and new vintages to get a nice balance of character and sourness.
The Sour Flemish Ale poured with tons of carbonation, just like a Coke! The head didn’t stick around too long, and I got a big whiff of vinegary sourness right off the bat, several inches from the glass! The aroma was all vinegar goodness with undertones of maybe a little cherry and some caramel. I was really thirsty when I drank this (these tend to be good thirst-quenchers), and I waited until this intro was written before I took my first sip!
Wow! Not what I expected! Not nearly as sour as I thought it was going to be, based on the aroma, and my first sip had a lot of cherry in it, although I don’t see a mention of being brewed with any cherries. Even the aftertaste on that first sip is really of cherry. There is certainly some sourness here, but with La Folie being the most sour beer I’ve ever had and maybe New Glarus Tart Cherry being the least (as far as “tart” or sour beers go), I’d give this a 3-4 2.
I’d call this sour more of a “tartness” and it really doesn’t even give me that “cheek pucker” sensation I get from really sour beers, but it’s good, don’t get me wrong! Really a lot of fruit in the flavor, and the tartness kicks in about 40% into the sip and rides out quickly in the aftertaste. This beer has a nice mouthfeel and is fairly sweet, which sounds strange for a tart beer, but the brewers are really walking a fine line with this beer between sour and sweet.
I like this beer, but it wasn’t as sour as I was hoping for. It’s a nice beer, and would be a great intro beer if you’re new to the sour styles. This would be nice with a dessert, I think, maybe something like cheesecake? Overall a big winner, especially for $2.50 for a 12 oz bottle, but if you’re looking for a really sour beer, look elsewhere. That said, this is a great drinker and a nice thirst-quencher, even if it doesn’t melt my face off.