The Rare Barrel's Ensorcelled
This week's Whale A Week is an unusual sour beer from California--The Rare Barrel's Ensorcelled. I first heard about The Rare Barrel when they were on The Brewing Network's Sunday Session podcast. Just a day later I bought a large portion of a fellow beer hoarder's cellar from him and discovered a stash of Rare Barrel (fairly new to the market) in his stash. Based purely on what I had heard from the brewer/blender Jay Goodwin on that interview I asked if he would throw in those beers for me as well. I've now tried three of them and have been blown away by all of them! I've been saving the bottle we tasted today for special occasion but wasn't sure it really qualified as a Whale. In 2014 the beer won a gold medal in the World Beer Cup and just a few weeks ago won a silver in the 2015 GABF! Now this is a Whale! RateBeer gives it a 99 and Beer Advocate gives it a surprisingly low score of 89.
The beer is made of a blend of their dark sour beer fermented with Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus, making this very similar to Flanders red or old brown Belgian styles. They age this in barrels and let it sour, then add raspberries for another few months. The wax-dipped bottle I have is Batch 5 from 2014 and has had some time to age in my cellar.
Cast of characters:
Eric--that's me! BJCP judge, brewer of sours, lover of sours.
Greg James--owner of the recently opened Iron Tap in Waconia, craft beer fan, sour newbie.
Sarajo--my wife, certified sour-head.
Eric: Strong raspberry, tartness, tannins. A hint of roast. Mouth puckering just smelling this deeply! A slight hint of barnyard funk. No hop aroma.
Greg: Fruity in aroma. Hint of raspberry with a touch of oak barrel aging.
Eric: Deep brown to ruby color. Fairly clear at edge of glass when held up to light, but very dark in color. Fine off-white head that fades quickly to a ring of larger bubbles at side of glass.
Greg: Dark in color, but slightly transparent.
Eric: Not sweet! Tart up front with a mouth-coating fresh raspberry flavor that knocks your socks off. Tart, puckering. Leaves a lingering candy raspberry tannic finish that is not overly sour. Cherry notes and hint of vanilla. Carbonation is fairly high and spritzy. Body somewhat low, but typical of the style when not back sweetened. No alcohol burn. No hop flavors.
Greg: Slightly tart initially and smooths out later in the tasting. Very sessionable.
Eric: I really, really like this. Looking at my review, I struggled a bit to find complexity in this beer, but the balance was just so spot-on that I could just drink a ton of this beer. The base Flanders Red style is perfect with a very complimentary raspberry tartness. No real flaws at all. 5
Greg: A very nice beer that would definitely drink again being new to sours. 4.4
Sarajo: Dark and sour...my favorite! 4.75
Overall Score: 4.72
This was a great beer and fun to try. I wish I had more of this one hiding in my cellar, but will have to make do with the other two Rare Barrel beers I have left. First World Problems...Thanks to Greg for taking part and for providing me with a couple bottles of the coveted Zombie Dust!