Let me introduce you to the Amsterdam De Wallen, the first Ontario-made barrel aged sour ale available at the LCBO. The De Wallen was announced rather quietly, suddenly appearing on store shelves without much hype other than some social media mentions. The distribution has been fairly limited (mainly Toronto with the odd case popping up elsewhere in the GTA) and quantity is small, which may explain why the De Wallen hasn’t been given a bigger push. While it has been a while since a review has appeared on this blog, it didn’t seem right to let this momentous occasion pass by without some fanfare.
The De Wallen is a framboise that was aged in Flat Rock pinot noir barrels for a year with an assortment of yeasts and bacteria to lend tartness and provide some balance to the sweetness of the fruit. It pours a hazy ruby with tints of auburn and a thin topping of almost-white foam. Big raspberry aroma that contains both the sweet and sour elements of the fruit. A bit of oak and Brettanomyces in the nose as well. The most impressive part of the beer is the taste, which varies from sip to sip. Sometimes a big raspberry flavour jumps out, sweet at first and then fading into a tart, lactic finish. Wood and tannin burst forth at other times with a faint hint of fruit underneath. The fine carbonation is just right for this style and helps make this complex and yet very refreshing at the same time.
The De Wallen reminds me most of a cross between a fruit-infused Belgian lambic and a Flemish Red. This is a big step forward for Amsterdam and hopefully one that leads to even more experiments with sours that see wider distribution. Nothing like the De Wallen has been released by an Ontario brewery before, both in terms of style and quality. This is a world class beer, one that will hopefully appeal to the average Amsterdam fan as much as the beer geeks. Once again, the bar has been raised.