Style: Barrel-Aged Belgian IPA/Barrel-Aged Farmhouse Ale
From: Baarle-Hertog, Belgium
Brewery’s Note: “Barrel-aged Belle Fleur I.P.A. (13 months) impossible combination of sour, sweet and bitter.”
Information on this beer is scant. The brewer’s website doesn’t even note that it exists, and all anyone really knows is that it’s their Belle Fleur IPA aged in barrels. Do we know what kind of barrels? No. Were there bugs introduced? I have no idea. What happened when you popped the cap? Hang on and let me get to my review, damn it…
The beer pours the color of a pale, orange marmalade. It forms a small head of eggshell white bubbles that slowly fizz away to a fat scrim. As the head goes, it leaves a sheet of thin, tight knit lacing that moves like a slow wave down the glass till it sits just before the lips of the beer. In body, the beer is cloudy, and nearly opaque. It’s a mire that gives vague hints of the other side of the glass, but never fully reveals anything. As a whole, it looks rustic yet well kept. On the nose, it smells of minty brett, herbal hops, and virgin barrels. These scents give way to a meatier funk that lingers briefly on less alluring scents. The beer is herbal and floral, like nettles with touches of lemon, chalk, and even orange, yet underlying everything else is a meaty funk that I just can’t place, nor can I decide if I like. On the tongue, the beer briefly tastes of sweet and fruity brett before a light herbal bitterness rolls in. The bitters build into the overpowering feature as the sip progresses, taking on tannic astringency. Citric acidity is briefly drawn into play, and perhaps there is also a quick lactic bite. The beer is more IPA in balance than anything else, but its execution and complexity make it more akin to a bitter farmhouse ale. In flavor, it is a bizarre hodgepodge on the tongue. It begins as sweet brett, somewhere between pineapple, lime, and apricot. These flavors quickly take a barnyard twinge, morphing into aged hay notes, before herbal grass bitters move in as a tsunami, pulling the flavors toward a classic bitterness of earth, oak, and grass. Sweetness makes a brief reappearance, displaying accents of funk and a hint of the meatiness from the smell, but they quickly blend into a bitter mint on the finish, and then leave us to medicinal bitters and grass in the aftertaste. In the mouth, the beer feels medium bodied, yet full and under-attenuated, with some flabby girth left on the tongue. The carbonation is a touch to mild for where I want it, and really just rolls off the tongue without being noted. The mouthfeel is sultry and smooth, with the bitters providing a nice bite on top of it, but this doesn’t quite work for the style. I want it crisper and dryer! When the beer leaves, the tongue is left pleasantly astringent and sticky, while the cheeks pump spittle along the gum-line. Overall, it’s an odd little bitter beer. It sits on an uncomfortable line somewhere between funky farmhouse ale and Belgian IPA, and, unfortunately, the funky farmhouse ale portion is not always as pleasant as the Belgian IPA portion, which leads to an imbalance. Fleur Savauge is interesting to sip, with lots of complexity, and a nice interplay of two schools of beer (funky and bitter), but doesn’t quite marry the two as hoped. Perhaps more time in the bottle will lead to this, though I am honestly unsure. As is, this is an interesting and complex sipper that doesn’t quite reach the level of unity I hoped of it, though I do like it more and more as I sip it.