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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Storm Brewing – Flanders Red Ale

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Today I stopped by Storm Brewing, located in the industrial part of East Van, for a baby-growler (1L) of their Flanders ale that I had read via their Facebook page was in stock.  Having never actually been by the brewery, I was caught off-guard when I had to walk in through the loading doors on the side of the building and quite literally through the brewery to the small counter where growler fills could be had.  I also got to meet James, Mr. Storm himself, and profess my adoration for his Flanders and now-extinct 12 year aged Lambic.  They are the sours that got me into sour beers back in 2009 or so.

Storm’s beers are a little hard to come by because they aren’t bottled; you need to either go to an establishment with Storm brews on tap, or pick up a growler or keg from the brewery directly.  There are a handful of pubs and restaurants around Vancouver that feature Storm taps, but it isn’t exactly widespread.  For some inexplicable reason it took me this long to get to the brewery for a growler, and I’m really glad I get to have this at home now and, well, blog about it.

The beer pours a natural leather kind of crimson brown, with just a trace of head.  Smell is quite sour – I wouldn’t use tart to describe it, it’s proceeded directly to sour.  Some burnt toffee, weirdly enough.  Slight bit of fruit but not a lot.  It has a characteristic funky earthiness combined with the yeast aromas that is pretty common among great sour lambics.  Taste is fairly puckeringly sour – not over the top but it’s the main characteristic for sure.  Quite malty for the style and not much in the way of fruit flavour – I would peg it more along the lines of dates and figs, not cherries or berries.  It’s not sweet, though there’s enough to keep things in balance.  There is some heat as well – this is 11% ABV, surely the strongest Flanders I’ve ever had.

I’ve had enough incredible lambics now to know that this isn’t the end-all-be-all of sour ales, but it’s still completely amazing and I’m so impressed that it’s brewed so close to where I live.  James is a visionary and talented brewer, and I sure hope he continues to experiment with sours, especially now that they are more in style than ever.