Notes of Two Beer Nerds – New Belgium Brewing’s Kick, imbibed by Timperial Stout and For Whom the Beer Toales
***Notes of a Beer Nerd is a column written by resident cellar dwelling mammal, Timperial Stout. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or comments***
Enjoyed on 9/25/2011
Brewery: New Belgium Brewing
Location: Fort Collins, CO
Presentation: 22oz. – Blown Glass Bottle – Capped.
Style: Sour Pumpkin Ale
Barrel: Blended with beer aged on oak
Malt: Pale, Carapils
Recommended Serving Temp: 50 degrees
New Belgium and Elysian are together again with Kick, a rich and tart pumpkin cranberry ale blended with wood-aged beer for a uniquely complex harvest season sour. The russet and orange of autumn shimmer through a slight haze like sunlight through the smoke from burning leaves. The taste and texture of pumpkin give way to the refreshing tang of cranberries and critters, satisfying and exciting with each swallow, finishing with an urge for more.
Kim brought sour from New Belgium; Dick brought pumpkin from Elysian. You’ll get a Kick out of their collaboration.
Food Pairings: Turkey, Salad, Pie
Cheese Pairings: Brie, Gouda
Music Pairing: Bvdub – I Remember (Translation of moerketid)
Beer Advocate: B+ (3.78)
Rate Beer: 94 (3.51)
From Timperial Stout:
If you read my last NoaBN post you know that I regretfully shat on a New Belgium beer. I have an outrageous amount of respect and love for NBB and their staff. I figured that I would write a review of their other very new edition to the Lips of Faith series because it’s fucking amazing and maybe, through doing so, I’d feel a bit better about myself (even though Todd already said that he liked my review despite it’s less that glowing result). So here it is. Get this beer while you can. You will not regret it.
Also, oddly, it came to my attention earlier today that one For Whom the Beer Toales was enjoying this very beer today as well from her home in the windy city. Even more strange, we both, almost simultaneously, suggested that we collaborate on the review. The funny thing about that is that Ms. Erin Toale is an expert at succinctness, where I am very, very much not (as I’m sure you are painfully aware). So, with that being said, I first offer you her thoughts, and then I offer mine in the fashion that you have come to know. As a quick side note, amidst all of this strange phenomenon, Erin and I made plans to formulate some sort of recurring column in which we both drink the same beers at the same time (in our respective cities) and review them at the same time as we progressively slip deeper into an inebriated state. I see time stamps and ridiculous commentary being signatures of this project. Something to look forward to perhaps.
For Whom the Beer Toales: Avoiding Responsibility or “What Was I Thinking?” (That Time My Fiancé Went to Oktoberfest Without Me and I Exacted Revenge by Drinking Too Much)
Have you ever been so hungover that your tongue hurts? It just feels like this lump of sad, foreign matter in your mouth? That’s where I am, today, folks. I woke up this morning (afternoon) and I knew there was only one way to make it through the day. Keep drinking.
I went to Binnys last week to get some Autumnal brews. Fall is, by far, my favorite season for beers. Maple! Pumpkin! Spices! Hoodies! (not a flavor, but still relevant.) On that note: KICK! (Aside, what the crap New Belgium has such an amazing website! Our site runs on windpower… ADORABLE.)
I am SUCH a New Belgium fanboy. Environmentally friendly, female CEO, FUCKING AMAZING BEER!! I LOVE YOU NB! This latest collaboration with Elysian is described as a session sour. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am picky about sours – I require moderation of funk. (I get heartburn, ok?) Kick is fruity in the front with a pleasant sour after-pucker and not overly sweet. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon on the couch with dogs and Clash of Kings. What, jealous?
Back to Timperial:
I had a sense that the “wild” nature of this beer would cause it to be highly carbonated but a soft pour evoked a not all that abnormal rise in foam. That foam ended up being stark white and consisted of tightly packed, small bubbles with some larger blow-outs resting on top. As the head settled, some very impressive lacing was left on the inside of the glass. The use of Carapils seems to have paid dividends. The white crown is evidently content existing as a ring and wisp atop the brew and is regularly fed by an impressive precipitation of carbon dioxide escaping from the lower recesses of the glass. It’s like watching an autumnal rain shower while hanging upside down on a hammock. I’m comfy.
The fluid itself is a brightly glowing, orange tinged amber and when held to the light it appears quite clear. From all outward appearances, this beer has no lack of sex appeal. Like a bird of paradise, it has flaunted it’s feathers and I have surrendered to it’s brilliance.
The head rise may not have indicated a principle wildness but the scent certainly does. A tart, sourness can be perceived well before the nose reaches the rim of the glass. It’s potent. It has a very wood aged and Brett spiked notion to it from my perspective. There is a lot of earthiness involved. Damp log is the best way that I can think to describe that particular aspect of the nose. But there is so much more.
The scent seemed to just fire out of the glass and penetrate my nose deeply. There is an effervescence that inspires thoughts of crystalline citrus candy shards propelled from a canon. I know that it’s cranberry at play but I feel as though it is sensed as being more like blood orange. Both acidity and perfectly ripened sweetness mingle with the oak and it’s like discovering a wood hewn cornucopia full of fruity desires after being island stranded for far too long without food. Near elation.
It takes some concentration to find the subtle squash within all the potency of jarring tartness and stunning fruitiness, but it can be unearthed. Obviously, this beer is not like many other beers. As such, the phenolics come in abnormal forms. It is very hard to tell where the spiciness originates. Is it the wild yeasts, the sour fruit…pumpkin spice? This may just be the true brilliance of this recipe.
Though it would be insane of me to dub this the best part of the beer, it’s a mandatory mention that the mouthfeel of Kick is absolutely world class. It’s crazy smooth but not thick and there is plenty of bubbly. It coats the mouth with a protective film that hugs you in all the right places and spurs you just enough to elicit a stimulation, not a coma coaxing of the pleasure receptors. It’s just right and I want it to stay almost more than I want it to go down and warm my innards.
I find it a challenge to describe the flavor of a sour beer. In most cases, it can be described as sour and that’s about it. I get most of the fruit or graininess (or whatever the case may be) from sours in the aftertaste. This makes sense to me because tartness has a tendency to seize up the tongue. It’s almost like a paralyzing effect is incited after the immediate knee jerk reaction of intense puckering. Tartness causes involuntary reactions on a small scale. This is where a lot of the pleasure comes from, I think, when dealing with this style. It allows us to toy with a part of our body that is rarely toyed with. We could snack on a bag of sour patch kids, but who wants to deal with the tongue and mouth abrasions that coincide with that venture? Here, our only after effect is a calming buzz.
Still, I must make an attempt. Honestly, the cranberry taste really does come through quite strongly. It’s a flavor packed fruit. Cranberry juice, straight up, is probably one of the most intense juices there is. It’s a bold move to use it in beer, but often bold is better. There is a good portion of wood flavor sensed as well, which grounds it a bit and allows me to keep in mind that this is a beer I’m consuming, not a juice. It must also be noted that the overall impression is not simply “sour”, which is more of a feeling than a flavor, but funky. Without the funk, and the aforementioned wood, this could be a carbonated fruit juice.
That isn’t to say that the grains are absent from the flavor, but they are so simple in this recipe that they’re easy to miss if you don’t think about them. Imagine the recipe formulation process. Any time that the grain bill consists of pale malt (base malt that is a requirement in pretty much all non-gluten free beers) and a body building grain (Carapils, flaked grains, wheat, etc.) and nothing else, you know that the “grainy” aspect of the beer is pretty much irrelevant to the brewer. This beer is not at all about the grain, and that’s fine.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is where Kick shines brightest, but from a review perspective, this is a definitive area. The tartness, which makes up a large portion of what makes this beer this beer, has a chance to subside a bit and therefore makes room for other elements to be revealed. Those elements are very enjoyable, possibly more so than the shroud that prefaces them. This fact alone is (and this time I’m sure) the best part about Kick. It’s like 2 beers in 1. It’s complexity to the up most.
Pumpkin is still sparse but here it is most relevant. The grains come through most here too, and they have an almost vanilla like flavor. If you’ve never smelled uncrushed Carapils, you might think I’m crazy for saying that, or you might think that I’m mistaking grain for oak. You might be right about the oak part but I swear that Carapils has a vanilla odor.
The cranberry is so unimaginably vivid in the aftertaste. To paraphrase The DSR, I feel like I’m inside of a cranberry’s hoo-hoo right now. I feel like a giant cran-creature consumed me and I’m swimming in it’s stomach acids. It kind of burns a little, but I already alluded to the extremeness of this experience. It’s invigorating. It’s like romanticizing self abuse a la Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson, but on a minuscule level that won’t send you spiraling into oblivion. Why oh why must this bottle not be bottomless?
A sour pumpkin ale. I’m no historian so I can’t claim to know to whom to credit the style with but I’m very much inclined to point at Sir Dick Cantwell, the ultimate purveyor of all things pumpkin beer. Others, like Allagash and Jolly Pumpkin, have experimented with the style and have had great success. Possibly, they are to honor. Never-the-less, this all works brilliantly together and needs to be reproduced on a much more prolific level.
It seems that, due to the release date, bottle artwork, and pumpkin theme, this beer was likely created with thoughts of pie and cranberry sauce in mind. Thanksgiving imagery. That makes a lot of sense, but if that truly was the inspiration, that may be the only point in which Kick fails. To me, this is a cranberry sour that could have been released at any time of the year. The pumpkin is deeply hidden and the grain bill brings nothing to what could have been a pie crust kicker (no pun intended). Really, that’s just me sharing a random though. I am always trying to be in the heads of brewers, because I want to be one one day.
The true summation here is that this beer is brilliant. I absolutely love it from head to toe, or crown to empty glass. It’s revolutionary in fact, and I hope it inspires brewers the world over.
If you like New Belgium’s Kick, you should try…
Allagash’s Goelschip; Jolly Pumpkin’s La Parcela; Elysian’s Mr. Yuck Sour Pumpkin Ale
Disclaimer: This beer was gifted to us from New Belgium staff but solely as a personal gift and with no expectation of a review.