First released as a draft-only option in 2010, New Belgium Brewing Co.’s Tart Lychee was rereleased in 2012 in 22-ounce bottles as part of the brewery’s Lips of Faith Series, which focuses on innovative and sour beers. The 2012 release of the beer came in at 7.5 percent ABV and was a blend of 56 percent sour ale aged in oak barrels and 44 percent ale brewed with lychee and cinnamon sticks.
The newest incarnation of Tart Lychee was released this year, and is a 7.5 percent ABV sour ale brewed with a lager yeast, nugget hops and red wheat malts, as well as lychee fruit sourced from Indonesia and Vietnamese cinnamon. However, this version was then blended at a ratio of 1:1 with New Belgium’s Felix, one of the brewery’s wood-aged sour base beers, before being bottled.
Eric Salazar, New Belgium’s wood cellar manager, explains the thought process behind the beer:
Overall, we want the lychee fruit to live in the blend without the sour overpowering it, and we want the base lager to add a nice malty profile. By fermenting out the sugars in the fruit, we’re left with a big aroma, so the maltiness of the beer can come through a little bit more. For the sour blend, we have sour lemon, an herbal lemon aroma, honey, nice citrusy sourness, a slight Bretta character, Chardonnay notes. Trying to balance all of those things in the final blend can be tricky, but I think we know what we’re doing at this point.
The Lips of Faith Tart Lychee pours a golden amber color, with about two fingers of off white head that takes a little while to dissipate, leaving a significant lacing behind. Carbonation seems to be quite high visually, and aroma from the glass brings a combination of flavors, including mangos, yeast, sweet malts, creamy oak, lemongrass and slight floral.
The first sip of the Tart Lychee brings flavors of tart lemon, oak, grass, yeast, green apple and grapefruit, along with a very small amount of black pepper. The profile is both creamy on the palate and tart on the finish, an interesting combination that I have not run across very often, and both attributes combine nicely with a touch of unique fruity sweetness that is also present. In addition, there is a very slight cinnamon note on the finish that rears its head every once in a while, although not nearly as much as I expected considering its place in the ingredients list. Carbonation is quite high, reminding me strongly of a slightly less aggressive champagne, and remains that way throughout the time I was drinking the entire bottle.