If you think you love a beer and think it’s your favorite beer from the style then there is only one way to verify that, a blind tasting. Perception plays a huge role in our enjoyment of beer, and many other products, and we must remove that perception to get a closer view of our real enjoyment. Plus, blind tastings are a lot of fun!
This is the first in a series of blind tastings I’m doing and posting about. Up next will be a post about hosting your own blind tasting followed by barrel-aged coffee stouts, barrel aged adjunct stouts, barrel-aged stouts, and krieks (cherry sours) will all be coming in the next few months.
Paste keeps doing these and I’ve got a few gripes on how they do them, specifically their sour tasting had a huge variety of sour styles mixed together. I think it’s unfair to compare a gueuze, or blended sour, to a framboise, aka raspberry sour. So, I present, a blind tasting of 8 blended sours and 11 raspberry sours.
Tasting Setup and Feedback
We had two helpful volunteers pouring the beers for us out of sight and keeping track of the order of beers. When each tester finished their beer they could go up for a pour of the next beer. During each flight, we opened palate cleansing beers, mostly IPAs and stouts, with a larger break for palate cleansers and snacks in between the two flights.
I provided everyone with a simple score sheet. Asking for a rating of 0 to 5 with .25 intervals, basically Untappd. There was also a small box for comments on the beers. Next go round I will leave room for more robust comments. After the event, I compiled all scores into an average and used that to decide the rankings.
I created the list of bottles based on other best sour lists mixed with widely available blended or raspberry sours along with what participants had available to contribute or what we were able to acquire from breweries. All bottles were from this or the previous year’s release except where noted. We did this to minimize possible advantages/disadvantages of aging.
Top Blended Sours
Our general lack of excitement in trying these despite greatly enjoying these beers before surprised many of us. Many were shocked by the results.
#1: Brouwerij Boon Oude Geuze Boon à l’Ancienne
This beer gave our pourers a pain as it gushed forth from the bottle, but despite that, it became our top pick. Folks positively commented on the balanced acidity, high carbonation, levels of funk, citrus flavors, dry finish, and Brett barnyard aromas.
Highly carbonated, lightly acidic, lots of brett aroma, dry
It warms the cockles of my heart to know that a “shelf turd” won this tasting. This beer should be sitting on the shelf of any of the better bottle shops in the Cincinnati area.
#2: Gueuzerie Tilquin Gueuze Tilquin à l’ancienne
Another classic Belgian blended sour that is widely available on many local store shelves.
Clean funk, this is how they should taste.
Comments for this were similar to Boon focusing on the mild acidity, dry finish, and Brett barnyard/horse blanket aroma. Many noted the huge carbonation, which one friend described as “champagne-y” I quote them specifically because Gueuze is accurately described as the champagne of beer, or “Brussel’s champagne” due to its high carbonatation.
#3: Brouwerij Boon Oude Gueuze Boon Black Label
Not the “shelf turd” of the previous two as this was, as far as I know, only a one off released a few months ago.
Best of the group
As with the previous two entries, the comments were very similar, but the word “light” came up far more often especially in regards to the Brett characteristics. Folks seemed to think the acidity was also slightly lower here than the Tilquin or Boon.
The Rest of the List
I’m only going to give the feedback information for the top three entries, but I’m excited to point out that Cincinnati’s own Rivertown barely missed out (by .03 points) on being in the top three.
#4: Rivertown Ville de Rivere Geuze 2014
#5: The Bruery Rueuze
#6: Allagash Coolship Resurgam
#7: Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio
#8 Rivertown Ville de Rivere Geuze 2012
Unfortunately, one of our members was unable to make it at the last moment so we did not have a Drie Fontenein Oude Gueuze in the lineup. I am planning on doing another blind tasting with the Tilquin, Gueuze Boon, and Dire Fonenein Oude Gueuze to see if it would have upset the top rated beers.
Looking at these results we can also see the occasional folly in aging beers. Rivertown’s 2014 Geuze received an average of 3.35 points while their 2012 Geuze was the lowest rated beer at 1.38. Of course, every year will vary slightly, but that’s a pretty big drop.
These results also clearly show the impact of perception. Many of us assumed that Cantillon or Allagash would come out on top as those had been highly preferred in earlier, non-blind, tastings.
Top Raspberry Sours
This is what really got the idea for this tasting going. I love raspberry sours, framboise is my single favorite style of beer. Going into this I expected Red Angel to win, followed by Rose de Gambrinus, and then Atrial Rubicite. Spoiler alert: predicting two out of the top three is pretty good.
#1: Jester King Atrial Rubicite
I was lucky enough to have this beer once before, loved it, and was curious to see where it’d fall in our tasting. Comments focused on the beautiful red hue, the tartness balanced with some sweetness, and especially the “jammy” raspberry flavor and aroma.
Beer of the night so far, fruit + tart
So much for “shelf turdz” warming the cockles of my heart. If you want this beer you can fly to Austin, TX, drive a half hour, stand in line in the baking sun, and plop down some serious cash. Or execute a series of trades, which is what I had to do to land it.
#2: Lindeman’s Framboise
There’s definitely a spectrum of sour intensity in the beers we tasted and clearly many of us preferred a near lack of sourness. To say this beer is sweet is an understatement, as one person put it “mega sweet.” Also, looking at the feedback it’s clear that this beer had the most intense raspberry flavor.
Super fruit aroma, yummy sweet
Hooray, another victory for easily obtainable beer! Visit your better bottle shop and be satisfied with this sweet raspberry jam of a beer.
#3: Wicked Weed Red Angel
People clearly loved the raspberry flavor here, again often described as jammy. Participants describe a level of sour higher than Atrial Rubicite, which makes me wonder if that’s why it came in slightly lower, though they also pointed out its nice balance between the fruit and the funk.
Tart, jammy raspberry, medium tart, dry and tasty
Back to driving hours away, waiting in line, and plopping down cash. I’ve done that two years in a row for Red Angel and fully intend on doing it again in the next few weeks. Outside of blind tastings, this is my single favorite beer, in this blind tasting I had it tied for first with Cascade Blackcap Raspberry.
The Rest of the List
#4: Crooked Stave Petite Sour Raspberry
#5: Allagash Coolship Red
#6: Cascade Blackcap Raspberry
#7: Firestone Walker Bretta Rose
#8: Upland Raspberry Lambic
#9: Hanssens Artisanaal Lambic Experimental Raspberry
#10: The Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa
#11: Framboise Boon
I have removed Cantillon’s Rose de Gambrinus from the list of results as something was exceedingly wrong with the bottle. I’ve been lucky enough to have that beer many times and never once perceived any diacetyl. The bottle in our tasting was more akin to a blend of raspberry, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and vinegar than anything I’ve ever tasted. Based on comments of the top three beers vs. earlier (non-blind) comments on Rose de Gambrinus I do not believe it would have altered the top three results.
Epic Rap Battles of Cincinnati
As a palate cleanser between flights of sours, we did a blind tasting of Listermann’s Biggie and Pac. This was quite informal and no hard data was collected but the general verdict was that they’re not particularly comparable and both are good examples of the differences between east coast and west coast IPAs.