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Sunday, November 4, 2007


Just opened up a big bottle of Moxie Sour Ale, a limited edition 10th anniversary brew from New Holland Brewing, Holland, Michigan. It seemed like a good time to do it: fall afternoon, cool, sunny, out on the deck, enjoying what's probably one of the last nice days for shirtsleeve weather (okay, long sleeves, and a sweater vest).

Honestly? I was prepared to not like this. I've had mixed experiences with New Holland beers; completely unimpressed with the Mad Hatter, bowled over in love with Black Tulip Tripel, quite taken with The Poet Oatmeal Stout. A sour beer? It's the hot thing, and very faddish, but hard to do well. I was afraid this might be a tongue-ripper, especially with that name (had some Moxie in Maine this summer; wow. Nerve tonic).

I was wrong. This stuff's delish. It's got big sour cherry flavor, but it's not thin and acidic with it. There's some real body to it, something that way too many of the sour ales are lacking. The woodiness is great for balance (I don't know if there's wood-aging involved, but the wood notes are definitely there), and the finish is clean and firm. There may not be a lot of this out there, but if you see it (or some of that Black Tulip), get it.
(I added this for you, Brad: that's freehand, two pumpkins, two candles. Magic, that; best I've ever done.)


Alan said...

Excellent. I am in Michigan next weekend for my first mid-west beer shopping foray. I didn't get Black Tulip at all but wondered if I had a bad bottle, given the vegetative tastes I found in my glass.


Steven said...

Funny, I had my first Mad Hatter off draft Saturday night -- I wasn't impressed either, just another hop-bomb with no other redeeming character, IMO.

Good to hear NH isn't just chasing trends for the sake of.

Lew Bryson said...

Uh, guys...just realized that Moxie is a VERY limited bottling: 452 bottles. I'm sorry, didn't mean to put up another hard-to-find beer.

Brad Beneski said...

Lew, you're a tracer? You gotta freehand your pumpkins, son.

Lew Bryson said...


You evil artistic genius, cut me some slack, I'm a word guy! I freehand the design on with a Sharpie, rough it on the spot, and then cut to my lines. Best I can do. I've added a shot of my favorite work; I call it "Gourd Eat Gourd World."

Anonymous said...

Really Moxie??, It isn't a true sour is it? Does it even compare to a gueze? It tastes like a big beer Pilgrims Dole or Exesiatalist (sp) just some thoughts

Lew Bryson said...

Well...a gueuze isn't a sour, it's a lambic. Two different kinds of beers. I would definitely put Moxie in the sour camp, not lambic. It's for sure tart, but it's not brett-tinged or wildly acetic.
Mostly what it was, was enjoyable.

Alan said...

Can you illustrate that distinction to clarify what you mean by "a sour" because I am pretty sure dry lambics are pretty damn sour when they hit my kisser. ;-)

Lew Bryson said...

Sure, Alan. The beers have a different mashbill -- different grains. You can see the different color: straight-up lambics are golden or pale yellow, sour beers are brown/red. A lambic can range from seriously sour to more funky/brett/horsey, whereas a sour beer is pretty much tart. Most sour beers don't get as sour as a sour lambic. There's differences in how they're brewed and fermented, but that's not what you taste, so I'm trying to keep it to sensory.
Does that help?

Alan said...

Oh, ok. I think, then, what you are calling "a sour" is a Flemish red/brown to me, Duchesse de Bourgogne or Liefmans being the examples. I do not think you are describing a third class - or are you? Not giving you the gears but wouldn't it be better, though, to avoid the naming of a style that allows for this sentence: "Most sour beers don't get as sour as a sour lambic" ?

Alan said...

I think, then, I will stick to "sour" as a descriptor rather than the name of a style: sour beers are just beers that are sour.

Lew Bryson said...

Oh, ok. I think, then, what you are calling "a sour" is a Flemish red/brown to me... I do not think you are describing a third class - or are you?

Yes and no. That is the kind of beer folks are aiming for -- I'd add Rodenbach to your list -- but some of the Oud Bruins tend more to brett than sour. Any time you wander in Belgian beer styles and try to stick to some narrow stylistic wind up in a trackless swamp. Best to just taste and enjoy. "Sour beers" is an American terminology that's being clear -- they're beers that taste sour -- and careful -- they're beers like some Belgian types, but we don't want to usurp place-name terminology, like 'California champagne.'

In short...nothing's cut and dried in Belgian-type beers. And yeah, "sour beer" isn't the most precise nomenclature anyone's ever come up with.

Jeff Alworth said...

Sour is the new hoppy! Okay, maybe not, but sour is my fave note, even before bitter. I have gone off the deep end, snuffling deep into beers like Hanssen's Oudbeitje--which is like soured compost--like a pig in a trough of funky corn. The Duchesse is succulent, but not sour. Further! Rodenbach Grand Cru is getting there. Further! Boon and Cantillon, further! Wait, there is no further!

I think you might be creating a distinction without a difference with the sour description, though. Souring appears in a variety of styles, and it's always the funk of wild yeasties that provoke the pleasure. You get more brett in some, more lactobacillus in others, and other unnamed, wild junk in yet others. (What's in that Oudbeitje?!) Even weisse beers have a little tang. So sour is a continuum, and it's hard to make any hard and fast rules.

Do you know how this beer was soured?

Lew Bryson said...

I may have to outsource this 'sour' discussion to a new thread to let it fully develop.

Jeff, I'm with you. I'm not really trying to make a style issue out of this; not my Way. Mostly, I called Moxie a "sour" beer because the label says "Moxie Sour Ale." And I'm in agreement: "sour" is a continuum. But like I think there are stops along the way of the "dark British ale" continuum -- porter, imperial stout, sweet stout, and so one -- "lambic" is definitely a stop -- a series of stops? A neighborhood? Destination: anywhere, east or west, I don't care? -- on the sour continuum, not just a smooth glissade along the way. I'm just calling them sour cuz that's what the American brewers are doing, and I think they're right.

I'm sensing a break-up in the whole nomenclature system, actually, as people realize how much of it is based on arbitrary divisions. The 'lumpers' may be on the upswing. People talk about wine being so informative on its labels...well, maybe, maybe not. And when one man's pale ale is another man's bitter, and another guy calls his IPA a useful is nomenclature? Victory's looking prescient calling Hop Wallop a hoppy golden ale, which is exactly what it is.

And Moxie? It's a sour ale. Damned right it is! But no, I don't know how it was soured. I need to find out. I'll work on that.

Jeff Alworth said...

Yes, the vocabulary, designed to explicate, so often obfuscates. Oh, these human endeavors!