Style: Flanders Red Ale
Aroma: Fairly forward funkiness, leading with notes of tart cherry pie. The aroma is fairly typical of a Flanders red ale, only slightly cleaner and less complex, in a rather pleasing way.
Appearance: Dr. Lacto pours slightly golden amber, with a white head that doesn’t stick around too long. More than likely, barrel aging and souring bugs have ruined this beer’s chance for good head retention. However, I can’t say I’m all too concerned about that.
Taste: Nice, forward sourness is the first notable character. The “cherry pie” notes from the nose come through on the tongue in an even greater quantity, combined with some pineapple and dark fruits. At this point, the oak character is just shy of undetectable. Again, this beer is not overly complex, which is a quality that I can certainly appreciate in the realm of barrel-aged beers.
Mouthfeel: Although I typically try to avoid using the word, “effervescent” for the sake of retaining my non-beer-geek friends and loved ones, I might have to let it fly this time. A nice, champagne-like bubbliness that is perfectly appropriate for the style is forward and well calculated.
Aftertaste: In the finish, a bit of the oak character begins to show, but again, not very forward. It almost shows through as a vague mustiness (for lack of a better word), rather than barrel character. The acidity reaches its peak at the very beginning of the finish, and faintly lingers in on the sides of the tongue.
Overall: As for Perrin’s first sour bottle release, I think it’s extremely evident that they’ve stayed intensely focused on quality, and on producing a respectable version of the style. When I spoke with head brewer John Stewart about the beer, he mentioned a head-spinning amount of quality control and yeast lab work that they performed during the production of this beer, and quite frankly, a good portion of that info was well over my head. However, he did mention that the beer was aged for nearly a year and a half in third-use Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, which explains the subtlety in the oak character.
There’s absolutely nothing to complain about here, which is significant for a style that can easily be rushed into a premature release, or even worse — a premature drain-pour. Sour beers in their early stages can often taste, smell and even look like the most un-drinkable vomit-water you could dream up.
However, over time sour beers will clean themselves up thanks to the work of various strains of bacteria and yeast. To make a (very) long story short, sour beers require intense patience and vast knowledge to understand if and when a sour beer will ever taste as great as beers like Dr. Lacto. Compliments to the brewer!