Every year New Belgium collaborates with smaller breweries to release a handful of big-bottle, kind of experimental beers. It’s called the Lips of Faith series, and it’s packed with off-center styles like Krieks and Gratzers and fun flavor combinations like peaches jammed together with Amarillo hops. If you’ve had Fat Tire or Ranger, you know New Belgium can knock out consistent, tasty beers that 75% of the people at your party will enjoy. It’s nice to see them get jiggy with it in their Lips of Faith series too.
Granted, it is a hit or miss lineup of beers, which is appropriate considering the series is called “Lips of Faith.” They’re taking chances, gambling if you will, and sometimes those gambles don’t pay off. Last year, we didn’t think too much of their Gratzer, a collab with 3 Floyds, but I went gaga over their Salted Belgian Chocolate Stout (the taste still haunts me!).
This year, I got to try three Lips of Faith brews back to back—the Transatlantique Kriek, La Folie and Cocoa Mole.
The Cocoa Mole is a powerful porter with cocoa, cinnamon and three kinds of chilies thrown into the mix. It’s heavy on rich notes like caramel and chocolate up front, then hits hard with cinnamon and heat from the chilies. It’s good, but I couldn’t see drinking more than one of these a year.
La Folie is a different story altogether. This sour brown ale spends up to three years in massive oak foeders, and it’s legitimately sour, with a puckering affect that lasts long after the sip is gone. There’s a pleasant, almost granule-like sweetness to it as well. It’s a perennial favorite for sour lovers, and for good reason. It’s top notch.
But my favorite of this batch of Lips of Faith is the Transatlantique Kriek (the name wreaks havoc on my spell check). For this odd-ball beer, New Belgium partnered with an “Old” Belgium brewer, Oud Beersel, which sent a big stash of their cherry lambic across the pond for New Belgium to experiment with. NB decided to blend the lambic with their own golden lager. The result is a beer that pours bright red and looks like juice, but tastes like nothing else in your fridge. The beer is vaguely sour, with some notes of cherry. But this Kriek isn’t a beer that’s defined by its fruitiness or its sour-ness, thanks largely to the blending of the golden lager, which provides a pleasantly mellow malt backbone. In spite of the bright red color and soft pink head, it’s not a flavor bomb that jumps out at you. It’s subtle, and it’s refreshing as hell. I could see myself drinking a few of these on a hot day some time in the near future.
Brewery: New Belgium
City: Fort Collins, Colo.
Style: Kriek lambic
Availability: 22-ounce bombers from now until the end of 2015