Review by: Cory Smith and Ron DeGregorio
One bottle and two glasses, that can only mean one thing: a collaborative review! While we were at Bar 145 in Toledo for their first servings of New Belgium Beers, our friend Kari let us know that they were also serving a Lips of Faith Series Beer called Paardebloem. Scott (the New Belgium rep) told us a little bit about the Lips of Faith series of beers, but we had never seen or had any, so we were very excited to have this chance.
For those who are nnew to Lips of Faith, like we were, it is basically a series of beers that New Belgium, and a partner of their choice, puts out that pushes the limits of brewing. New Belgium’s website calls this series, “…Small batch beauties brewed for faithful lips. These bottles are topped off with tasty mischief.” They are calling for you to trust them; to believe that whatever they put in this bottle will be worth drinking. They just want you to simply have faith in their abilities as brewers. With strange ingredients and ideas, sometimes it is hard to blindly give a brewer faith, but we can’t say no to a New Belgium offering!
Paardebloem (no I don’t know how to exactly pronounce it) is a very unique beer. Red Rock and New Belgium came together to create a Belgian beer that sets itself apart from the competition. It is an ale brewed with wild Belgium-style yeast and bittered with dandelion greens. Hops are found in this beer, but most of the bittering is done with a combination of dandelion greens and grains of paradise. It is also brewed with peach juice, and wood-aged for a creamy, smooth finish. There is a lot to tackle in this brew, so without further ado, let’s dive in.
Ron and I decided that Paardebloem looked almost like if you melted down a creamsicle and put it in a glass. It was a cloudy, blood-orange and honey color. The head was fairly thin, but brilliantly white. Not a lot of light could make it through this beer, making it appear thick and yeasty.
There’s a lot of fruit on the nose here. I thought it smelled somewhat peachy and tangy, and Ron though it smelled exactly like a screwdriver (vodka and OJ). There was definitely a big whiff of booze, but it was also tart like a sour, and smelled a bit like apricots. There wasn’t a hoppy aroma at all, which makes sense considering that hops weren’t a big part of the brewing process. As you can probably tell, this was a complex beer. The cool thing to me is that no one smell dominated the other. Every whiff offered something different, something that you didn’t know you were looking for.
Paardebloem was a medium bodied, creamy beer. There wasn’t a lot of carbonation tingling your tongue, but more it is like swallowing a thin foam instead. This is probably a product of the wood-aging, and it really added a uniqueness to the brew. While it wasn’t like other beers we’ve had, it’s a texture that invited us in for more.
I think both Ron and I said this exact phrase after our first sip: “Hm…” That wasn’t an exasperated sound of tasting something bad, it was more or less the sound you would make when you are truly and utterly speechless. It took a couple of sips to really be able to break down this beer because there is so much going on. First off, it was bitter unlike any beer I’ve had before. Dandelion greens and grains of paradise don’t create a cloying bitterness, or coat your mouth with a bitter film, but somehow add an earthy and herbal bitter flavor to the beer. It was dry, and clean, and almost has the flavor of unripe apricots. There are notes of orange, and lactic sourness as well. Unlike the aroma, there wass one thing that dominates in the flavor department and that was the booze. It was a warm beer, and Ron was convinced that it was the beer version of a screwdriver. It’s boozy, fruity, somewhat sour, and has a sweet honey-like finish as it warms. As I said, there’s a lot going on here, and the more we drink, the more we found, and there almost wasn’t enough beer for the both of us to fully discover everything that was built into this unique brew.
There is one word that everyone kept using to describe the Lips of Faith series of beers: esoteric. I can’t think of a more fitting word for this beer. Many people won’t like this beer, mainly because may people won’t”get it”. I’m not even positive that we “get it”, and I can’t say that we are in love with Paardebloem. Due to the high booze flavor we are giving it an 83, B-. We think that New Belgium and Red Rock did really cool things to make this beer possible. We like the idea behind it, with all of the unique ingredients and procedures taken to create the beer. We just wouldn’t consider this a home run. But, then again, if they were going for esoteric they certainly succeeded, so maybe they did hit this one out of the park. I would suggest at least giving it a shot just to say that you tried it, and if you don’t like it, don’t worry because someone else will.