Reviewed: New Belgium La Folie Grand Reserve PX
Official description: Our iconic sour ale acidified in premium, Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks, infused with Tahitian vanilla beans and bottled on a gentle amount of nitro for a smooth and creamy presentation and texture. 8% ABV
New Belgium Brewing Company – New Belgium La Folie Grand Reserve PX – 375mL bottle served in wine stemware – 8% ABV
I’m very excited to have gotten my hands on this year’s special edition of La Folie, which spent time in sherry casks with vanilla beans. Last year I reviewed the regular La Folie and was quite impressed. So let’s see how this special edition turned out.
The presentation of this beer is stellar with a simplified design, smaller font, and textured black paper labels. It looks special from the get-go. Pouring this into my glass, La Folie Grand Reserve PX is clear, dark brown in color topped with a modest head of tan foam. The foam consists of the uniform, microbubbles you might expect from a nitro stout. However, there’s nothing I see on the bottle that informs you this is a nitro beer nor does it instruct you to pour this beer vigorously like other nitro-gassed products. Even if there was, a corked and caged sour ale is that last place I would expect to find a nitrogenated product. The end result, even with regular pouring, is a dark sour that looks like a nitro stout in the glass. Also worth mentioning is that the bottle contains no sediment at the bottom perhaps because the nitrogen has replaced the need for bottle refermentation.
Through its creamy foam, this special edition of La Folie really impresses in the nose. At first, there’s a mix of savory soy-like elements with jammy dark fruits like blueberry, blackberry, and cherry. Dark bread and burnt sugar come through as it warms along with a building dark alcohol note from the sherry cask. Especially at room temperature, the bouquet is divine with chocolate cake and brandy.
Flavor-wise, La Folie Grand Reserve PX doesn’t quite match the complexity of the nose. The beer is light-bodied with essentially no sugar leftover. Acidity is high at a 7/10 level, but with no sweetness to balance, the end result is lemon-forward and overpowered by citric acid. Some earthiness and saltiness poke through, but the overall beer is too puckeringly sour to appreciate its complexities. Sherry cask and vanilla are both lost on me. Leathery and tannic flavors, hallmarks of barrel-aged sours, are suprisingly absent.
Overall, this special edition comes across as too sour and unbalanced. Yes, there is an exquisite aroma that is bolstered by the sherry cask and vanilla, but it doesn’t translate into the flavor for me. Compared to pFriem’s Oud Bruin, which I reviewed recently, La Folie isn’t as approachable and lacks an underlying base beer to appreciate. I would love to see this beer spend more time in the barrel and really pump up the sherry and wood character. But I’d also like to see it blended back with non-soured ale to strike a balance in mouthfeel.
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