Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Battle of the News: La Folie v Enigma

In theory they are the same style. La Folie and Enigma. They are both sour brown ales. Modeled on Goudenband, this style tends to be, though not always is, darker in color than, for example a Flanders Red. This might indicate that flavors would be more along the roasty, chocolate, or smoky ranges. However, often the sour overpowers much of the flavor. In fact, the sour can be more intense; but the flavors are also typically more refined. Where the "red" is an everyday drink in Belgium (oh! to be in Belgium!), much like it is here (though without the sour), the brown is a drink to be savored. Find the fanciest glass you own, raise up the pinky finger in solidarity.

Much like porters from days of yore and lambic of more modern fame, these sours are intended to be blended. Indeed, the blend is representative of the brewery. Some are tarter, some are sweeter, some more malty, some heavier on the brett. In any event, the range of character in the "oud bruin" style can be vast. From the malty "Oud Zottergem" to the uber-intense (as we'll see) La Folie, there is wide range for just about everyone.

So, what's the point of pitting two giants of the brewing world head-to-head? Shits and giggles mostly.

New Belgium La Folie
Beer Advocate (A-). RateBeer (100).
Appearance: dark brown with saddle edges; a tan foamy head, solidly packed carbonation; served at 53 degrees
Aroma: sour and fruity; complex aromas of raspberry, cherry and oak; sweet malt and an unexpected nuttiness
Flavor: really, really sour; like sucking on a sour patch kid; slight alcohol in the back of the throat
Body: soft and long finish; metallic and fruity
Drinkability: intense, intense sour that does not abate; almost overpowers all other flavors
Summary: OK, so a 100 is a lot to live up to; I can see how people like this; is it my thing? eh, it's good-ish; interestingly, while drinking it is not particularly pleasant, the malt and residue is quite pleasant - like a cherry Lifesaver; facing the facts, there are not a whole lot of people for whom this would be a pleasant experience, which makes the 100 a little hard to swallow; and, frankly, I've talked to people, who would surprise you, that have called it "vinegar" and "cat piss" and "awful" - and these are people that love sour beers; me? it's fine enough, and I like sour beer; would I give it a 100? probably not; for my tastes the blend (if there is any) is all wrong, and there is no balance whatsoever; even Cantillon Geuze, an intensely sour beer, has more balance in the funk and malt than this; so, yeah, go out and try it, it's good, and you might even think it's great, but don't surprised if you end up using it for salad dressing.


  1. I think La Folie is more of a hybrid of sour red and sour brown. If Wild Brews is to be believed, sour reds are typically aged in wood while sour browns aren't. Despite being darker, La Folie tastes a lot like Rodenbach Grand Cru to me (New Belgium's brewmaster came from Rodenbach, so that's no surprise). Much more so than Liefmans.

  2. Interesting. Never heard the wood-aging distinction. Given the claim that La Folie is aged in wood barrels, would that make it a red? And, I definitely see the comparison with Rodenbach GC, but think La Folie is much, much more one-note - with that one note being sour.

  3. I'm with Mr. MBR; this beer was a one trick pony. Tasted like stomach acid to me, and I love Roddenbach Grand Cru

  4. I think La Folie shares characteristics of both Flanders reds and oud bruins. I agree that Rodenbach Grand Cru is more nuanced, but I think La Folie has a stronger malt backbone. It was the second sour beer I ever tried (the first was New Belgium's Transatlantique Kriek on the same brewery tour) and I fell in love with it right away. Hoppy beers took me a lot longer to appreciate.


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