Driftwood – Bird of Prey 2014

I was genuinely filled with glee when I learned that Driftwood was re-releasing their original sour from 2011, Bird of Prey.  I have all the others in my cellar, but Bird of Prey was sadly absent.  2011 was about when I got into sours, and I missed the original release because I wasn’t as well connected as I am now with what’s going on in the beer scene.  Thankfully, Driftwood gave me a second chance.

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Bird of Prey is a Flanders Red, which is quite specific geographically, but looser in flavour profile. For instance, Duchesse de Bourgogne is very sweet and only slightly tart, whereas Cuvée de Jacobins is a pucker-fest. Bird of Prey is kind of muted on both sides.

Flanders / Flemish reds get their character from Lactobacillus, which produces a sourness by way of the production of lactic acid.  Bird of Prey has a serious lactic funk, especially through the finish of each sip.  It’s actually slightly heavy, though not unpleasant.  There is grape must, sour cherries (though not overly sweet), and a heavy tannin bill on the nose.  The palate is gentler, with the fruitiness kept fairly low profile.  It is good, though not as lively as you’ll find in some Flanders reds.

I also decided to pop open a bottle of Lustrum to compare and contrast between, though these are not the same style at all and thus comparison is kind of moot.  Mostly I wanted to see which I preferred, and I bought so many bottles of Lustrum I am always looking for an excuse to open one.

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Mostly they’re different, but they do share a common thread when it comes to that lactic funk:  both exhibit a strong lactic funk which outlasts the rest of the flavours.  Lactic acid is a welcome and important part of many sour beers, though it is a taste that ought to clean up after itself.  By that I mean other characteristics of the beer (for instance, carbonation, barrel character, fruit flavour, or hops profile) come in and neutralize the funk towards the back end of the palate.  Neither of these fully clean up after themselves in this regard, but the funk that’s left behind is by no means unpleasant.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Bird of Prey does with a little age.  It will be joined by its pals Lustrum, Belle Royale, and Mad Bruin in the cellar and the next tasting will likely involve all four.

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Driftwood – Lustrum

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Driftwood is celebrating their 5th anniversary with a sour ale, which is a style I have come to respect Driftwood for.  This particular sour is made using wild yeasts harvested locally plus the addition of black currants.  The resulting brew weighs in at 9.4% ABV, so it’s no slouch.  In this respect, I am thinking this is a good candidate for some aging though I have no scientific basis for that.  It has already spent a year in oak barrels as well.

The beer pours a deep, dark red with a little bit of purple in it.  The head is an impressively dark pinkish red, darker than it appears in the photo above.  I caught a whiff of the funk while taking the photos from 18″ away.  The fruit flavours are not overly bright or open – there is some sweetness of cherry or black currant (obviously it’s black currant, but not knowing I’d have guessed either or).  The sourness is lactic and kind of sharp.

Taking a sip, I’m met with wonderful carbonation and a gentle, tart-sweet black currant flavour along with oaky red grape notes, which then slides into a lactic sour funk.  It drinks much like a full bodied red wine in the beginning, before headed to funk-town.  It is not puckering – Belle Royal hit you with a puckering sour start that eased into sweetness, whereas this starts pretty neutral with barely-tart fruit but then the funk builds from there, ending with a lot of barnyard quality in the mouth.  I dare say it’s a little overly lactic for my tastes, though that’s my only criticism.  It also has a warming effect at the finish along with the barnyard funk, undoubtedly having something to do with the 9.4% alcohol content.

Overall, I’m not as ecstatic with it as I was with Belle, but still very pleased.  For those who like sours this will no doubt be worth having a couple bottles though I don’t feel there’s a need to hoard it.  That said, since I do want to cellar at least one for a couple years, it wouldn’t hurt to have more than the three I was limited to at purchase.

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