Last week on A Whale A Week we tasted the rare 2012 vintage of FiftyFifty Eclipse aged in Old Fitzgerald barrels. During that tasting, which became a somewhat epic bottle share among a small group of us, we ended up cracking some other whales. Not to miss the opportunity, I made everyone work for it and write out their descriptions for use in the next couple of weeks. The goal of this series is to force me to actually drink some of these rare beers that are lurking in my cellar, rather than just gaze upon them in adoration.
Cantillon Fou' Foune 2014
For those who don't have experience with sours, the lambics are sour beers, and often have fruit added to balance the tartness of the brew. Cantillon is THE lambic producer that all others bow down to. They still produce the beers in traditional manner in Brussels, Belgium by pumping the hot freshly boiled wort into a large flat copper vat called a coolship. The coolship is located in the attic of the brewery, and louvers are opened in the roof to let in random wild yeast and bacteria from the surrounding area as the beer cools overnight. Having been to Cantillon twice now (seriously the coolest brewery ever...) and seeing the dust of ages and cobwebs all over everything, I'm still boggled by how good the beers are! The real magic happens in the process of aging the beers in oak barrels and blending the young and old beers together to get just the right character out of them. Sours are not for everyone, and are often an acquired taste, but are well worth giving a shot. Cantillon lambics tend toward the more tart/sour than many of the easily available sours in America (Lindemans, Boon, etc.)
Fou' Foune is one of Cantillon's more sought-after fruit lambics. The beer has a rating of 100 on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer, putting it in the upper echelon of beer geek love. The story goes that Cantillon owner Jean Van Roy was having a fine dinner with a local apricot grower named Francois Daronnat in 1998, when he mentioned that he should brew a beer with those apricots. Promptly forgetting about this comment, it was a surprise when later that year at harvest time Jean discovered a shipment of 300 Kg of Bergeron apricots waiting for him at the brewery. That initial batch was quite popular and they have been making it yearly ever since in limited production. The apricots are stoned by hand and soaked in 2 year old lambic for 2 months.
Fou' Foune, like most traditional lambics is a lower alcohol beer, coming in right around 5% ABV. I have tried this beer several times over the past few years, getting the chance to bring home a bottle directly from the brewery back in 2012. And I'll make no bones about it, I love it a lot. While many sours continue to develop with age, the apricot flavor fades relatively quickly, and the beer ends up more sour than fruity over time. With age the beer is still amazing (having tried a 3 year old sample) but not as unique and fruity. The bottle we have is from 2014, so still somewhat fresh. The label on the bottle was done by Julie Van Roy featuring a moonscape with a floating apricot moon. Also for more information than you needed to know, apparently fou' foune is French slang for lady-parts. Ah, those French.
For today's tasting we gathered a panel of experts...Ok, people who like beer. Included were: Me--Homebrewer, BJCP judge. My wife Sj--Fan of Imperial stouts. Dave Manley--JAB member, homebrewer, cellared beer expert. Jim Stroner--Beer enthusiast and photographer. Rick Spaulding--Also beer enthusiast, biker, and photographer. With this varied dream team assembled, after a light palate cleanser of Eclipse, we continued our search for amazing and rare beers.
Eric: Tart apple. Apricot and pear. Distinct sourness--almost sour patch kids sourness. Slight hint of malt as it warms up. All bright and zippy.
Dave: Beautiful sour. Tangerine, pear. Mild funk. White grape must.
Jim: A lot going on--complex. If anything leads it is apricot.
Rick: Lemon rind
Light orange to golden color. Slightly hazy. Large, fine white head, but fades relatively quickly.
Eric: Sour and sweet! Fresh apricot pulp or nectar. Marmalade. Light, tart and spritzy. Carbonation very high which results in more effervescence and liveliness on the tongue. Body is light, but not watery. Finish is bone dry, but with lingering fruit flavor. Puckering, but not astringent or overwhelming sourness. Some earthy, barnyard brett character. Slight apricot pit flavor.
Dave: Sprightly carbonation--tart. Citrus, tangerine, grapefruit, slight toasty malt, lemongrass.
Jim: Again--complex. Hard to describe. A little earthy and light fruit apricot.
Rick: Lemon zest/citrus rind, dried apricot, tart, refreshing. Nice carbonation. Light body.
Eric: So refreshing! Bright, fruity, sour all at once. This is what most fruit lambics aspire to be when they grow up. 5
Jim: Very refreshing. 4.5
So there you have it our score overall is a 4.5 out of 5. I should weight this score based on the fact that my score of 5 is the correct one...but I'll let these folks have their low-ball scores for today. Just kidding! All of beer tasting is subjective and personal taste and experience have a huge impact on one's enjoyment of a beer. Sours can also be quite challenging to taste and to describe. This beer is one of my favorites of all time and I would gladly drink it every day of the week. That being said, we all agreed that Fou' Foune would be at its refreshing best sipped out on a deck under a bright summer sky. With friends of course!
Next week I'll post our review of Lift Bridge Barrel Aged Silhouette, so stay tuned!