Over the past few years I have come across bottles of New Belgium’s Le Terroir1 on shelves and for some reason never picked one up. I have had so many other offerings from New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series that it really surprises me how this one just slipped through the cracks. That all changed a few weeks back when it was on tap at one of my local watering holes.
I ordered a pour and as soon as I took my first sip I was absolutely blown away. I drink a lot of beer. A LOT OF BEER, and I have never tasted anything like Le Terroir. I was completely taken back by the strange and yet enticing combination of sour and hoppy. As I sat at the table babbling on about how good the beer was to a table of non-craft beer drinkers2 I quickly realized how big of a mistake I had made the past few years by passing on this beer
The concept of a hoppy sour is a foreign one to most beer drinkers and even brewers. Traditionally when brewing a beer hops are added to not only add flavor and bitterness but also for there anti-bacterial qualities. Adding hops to a beer helps fight off the very bacteria that create sour beer. New Belgium has fixed this problem by souring the beer for three years in oak foeders3 and adding the hops at the very end of the process. By finishing the beer with eight days of dry hopping4 with Amarillo and Citra hops the beer is given the wonderful hop aroma.
As I crack open the bottled version of the beer I had fears that the hops would not translate quite as well as the draft pours I have had. My fears quickly subsided when a huge tropical fruit aroma filled the room as I poured the hazy golden liquid into my glass. The nose on this beer is absolutely wonderful. It smells just like a big juicy IPA. Pineapple, citrus, mango and ripe peach with hints of a wood. It does not smell like it will be sour in any way.
For those of us who read beer reviews regularly, how often have you read the phrase “the taste follows the nose?” This is one time where I will not be using that phrase. The tropical fruit notes are definitely present but the acidity hits your palette it is almost shocking. You brain is expecting a big juicy IPA but it is met with a strong sourness that contrasts wonderfully with the hops. The two worlds are so perfectly intertwined that both the fruitiness and the lasting sour bite are perfectly balanced. The finish is quite unique because after the tartness subsides you are left with a very clean example of the hops used that would normally be covered up by the bitterness associated with hoppy beers. The slight touch of sweetness and oak help add a thin layer of complexity to the already delicious brew.