De Proef Reinaert Wild Ale:
This wild ale is the first review of a series of "sour" beers I have enjoyed in 2012, primarily since this extremely hot summer. I put the word "sour" in quotes, because although it is very recognizable style of beer, it is one that likes to hide from itself. With the exception of a beer like Monk's Cafe Sour Ale, sours tend not to advertise the term "sour." They tend to say "wild," meaning they use a wild yeast strain, or probably if the word "Flemish" is used (brewed in the Flanders region of Belgium), it is probably a sour, too.
Putting my nose to the bottle, Reinaert definitely has that sour nose to it, which is nice. People who know me have heard me say that I like sours, because in some ways, they don't taste like beers at all. This doesn't mean I dislike what I perceive to be a traditional "beer" smell. In fact, I have also commented how much I like Stoudts Karnival Kolsch, because it has so much traditional beer flavor. In fact, it reminds me of the beer of my youth, the first beer I ever had, Philadelphia's own Schmidt's. But when I think of awesome sours like Russian River Supplication or Jolly Pumpkin's Madrugada (which they categorize as an imperial stout), it's like you are drinking some kind of otherworldly elixir.
This beer does not hit me like a Russian River beer, but what other beers do, right? For being 9.0% abv, this wild ale is smooth. If you taste the alcohol at all, it is on the tip of the tongue, and not unpleasant. For me, this beer is yet another step of wrapping my head around the grand tradition of Belgian beers. There are some Belgian dubbels and tripels that I just can't stand anymore because they are so cloying and syrupy. This wild ale is crisp, with a nice off-white head, decent effervescence, and a nice balance of tart flavor with some hoppy bitterness. "Finished with a surprising and pleasant bitterness" is what is says on the bottle, and they credit it to the dry hopping they employ, and I agree. It is surprising and bitter, and I think in that finish is where you get a hint of the alcohol too, which as I said, isn't bad.
Again, I think this beer is at a disadvantage since I have a strong affection for Russian River sours. I also had this year Iron Hill's Flemish Red, and that was really great. Great sour flavor. I will need to get another bottle. Reinaert does not have that luxurious, decadent flavor that a Russian River beer provides, but it is nice and smooth, and has a nice overlap into the realm of hoppy beers. I could see this becoming a gateway beer for drinkers unfamiliar or unwilling to drink sour beers.