Beer Review 0262: New Belgium Lips of Faith Brett Beer
A somewhat controversial beer? Well, maybe. New Belgium (Fort Collins, Colorado) teamed up with The Lost Abbey (San Marcos, California) for this entry into their Lips of Faith series — they call it ‘Bretta Beer’ on their website, but the bottle calls it Brett Beer.
Brewed with Brettanomyces, a wild Belgian yeast that typically provides a funky and sour edge to beers, this is an American Wild Ale that comes in at 7.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). The specific strain of Brettanomyces used was a combination of New Belgium and Lost Abbey’s cultures — Lost Abbey made a version of the beer called ‘Mo’ Betta Bretta, which is a little lower in ABV but the same concept as this New Belgium offering.
So, here’s the thing with this beer: with age, beers that use Brettanomyces get drier and more tart. But, and reports of this are sketchy — New Belgium apparently pasteurized their version of the beer, which effectively renders the brett useless. Initially, it was an “accident,” but later reports indicate that New Belgium did it on purpose, as they had achieved a flavor they liked and pasteurizing it essentially locked that flavor in, preventing it from wild changes.
Two points here:
-Unfortunately, there is no bottled on or best by date on this container. One would think if New Belgium were after a specific flavor, there would be a best by date so you know when to drink it by in order to enjoy those flavors.
-I had this beer on tap when it first came out, this past August. I can tell you that in the three months I had this beer sitting in my basement, it tastes exactly the same as when I had it on tap.
Before pouring, I distributed the yeast that was caked on the bottom of the bottle by gently turning it upside down and rolling it around on a table. The pour drew an average sized head, soapy and quite fizzy, and quickly diminishing into just a residual cover. The beer was a golden straw color, with a hazy body that was filled with sediment. Some of the particles were heavy and chunky; lacing was good, leaving behind several big sheets of thin, creamy suds.
On the nose, this plays out much more like a Saison than a Wild Ale — no shortage of straw and grain, and it was mixed with a mildly funky yeast that lent an earthy/musty aroma. There was a mild bubblegum aroma going on, along with a nice fruity backbone composed of lemon, orange, and tropical fruit, especially pineapple. This aroma was refreshing and exceptionally pungent — it filled the room with its smell upon opening of the bomber.
Tasting, yes, this is very much like a Saison. Grassy and straw notes up front, then a blast of some tropical fruits. The texture was lovely; creamy and with a soft carbonation. The fruity hit was gentle and dry, which led to a finish of some yeast twang, a subtle spiciness, a touch of the 7.5% ABV, and hints of bubblegum. I found this brew to be medium-bodied, easily drinkable and oh-so refreshing.
I figure I might take some heat for this, but let’s make one thing clear: I don’t exactly rate beer according to style. This is not an American Wild Ale; this is a Saison — if it was “accidental pasteurization” or not, I’m not exactly sure. But I can tell you what this is, in its current form: a tasty beer that I think you will like if you go into it with no expectations. The flavors are great, the aroma is intriguing, and for a big bottle of beer that you pay a premium for, I really enjoyed it.
New Belgium Lips of Faith Brett Beer, 92 points. Price: $8.75 US for one 22 oz. bomber size bottle.