Two of my favorite Columbus breweries are celebrating anniversaries with blow out parties today (Saturday 9/28/18), Land Grant (noon to midnight) and Wolf’s Ridge (10 am to midnight). To celebrate I’m reviewing a beer featured in the massive bottle release at Wolf’s Ridge, Terre du Sauvage Gold. Not quite ready for the release is an interview with the Land Grant team, but keep an eye out for that feature in the not too distant future.
As coincidence would have it, Wolf’s Ridge Brewing and this beer blog were founded in the same week five years ago. So I’ve had a front row seat to watch the phenomenal growth and evolution of this Columbus gem. My first visit in December 2013 describes seven beers that even I had forgotten (Knotty Brown English Brown Ale, Zane’s Trace Roggebier, 3 am IPA, Canis Lycaon Stout, …), and one keeper, Clear Sky Cream Ale. This quote from my post might make the youngsters in the audience scratch their heads.
This is not a place to find extreme beers in terms of alcohol, hoppiness, exotic ingredients, experimental recipes, etc. Rather they seem to be influenced by the traditional beers of England, Germany and Belgium.
Fast forward a year to 2014, my blog had gained enough cred that brewers would actually sit down and talk with me, and I did one of my early profile stories on Wolf’s Ridge. That interview was the first time I met Chris Davison, a man who has transformed Wolf’s Ridge since coming on board as head brewer in 2014. That was also my first encounter with another of WRBs distinctive beers, the fabulous if divisive Buchenrauch. Since that time they’ve opened a killer taproom, expanded capacity dramatically, produced more coffee-infused beers than I can count, started a barrel-aged sour program, and brought home a gold medal from the Festival of Barrel Aged Beers (FoBAB) for Terre du Sauvage Green. In today’s post I review it’s cousin, Terre du Sauvage Gold.
- Brewery: Wolf’s Ridge Brewing (Columbus, OH)
- Style: Barrel-aged Farmhouse Sour
- ABV: 6.5% (?)
- Price: $12.99 per 22 oz bottle
Wolf’s Ridge launched their barrel aged sour program in the spring of 2017 (see this story by Steve Croyle for a flashback). Today I’m reviewing a bottle that I picked up at during the first release (bottled on May 17, 2017). The label on the bottle reads:
Terre du Sauvage is our ode to the wild heritage of farmhouse brewing in Belgium. A rotating set of recipes will each take on the unique wild cultures in our barrels, as well as the ingredients used in the brew. All versions are 100% fermented in a blend of various oak barrels over the course of several months using a mixed culture of lactobacillus, brettanomyces, and saison yeast. Terre du Sauvage gold is brewed with barley, wheat, rye, coriander and rose hips. Light bodied with pleasing tartness and mild funky notes. Refreshingly bright and drinkable.
Terre du Sauvage is shimmering gold in color with excellent clarity. The initial pour features a cascade of bubbles that forms a small but fleeting white head. The nose is dominated by fruity notes that tend toward apples, accented by a complex acidity that features a subtle acetic note. There’s a touch of wet hay/barnyard brett funk lurking in the background. The mix reminds more than a little of the artisanal ciders you find in southwest England. The taste follows suit with tart apple-forward fruitiness. The acidity is not too funky, but easily more complex than the one-note lactic acidity of many kettle sours. Here you can also detect subtle background notes of acetic acid and brett funk that add complexity. The malt base provides the perfect canvas for the handiwork of bacteria and brett, but good luck picking out flavors from the malts or any hop presence. On a 1 to 10 scale I’d say the sourness comes in somewhere in the vicinity of seven. The mouthfeel has a slightly vinous character and the finish is clean. I don’t know if it’s the power of suggestion, but I’d swear the rose hips makes a brief appearance at the finish.
This beer has a complexity that goes beyond a kettle sour, but at the same time isn’t likely to be confused with a Rodenbach or a Cantillon. That’s to be expected given the years/decades that it takes to establish a truly unique house culture. Having said that, the combination of expressive fruity esters, multifaceted acidity and drinkability is a good start toward emulating the Belgian sour ales that people like me speak of in revered tones. If anything this beer reminds me more of a golden version of a Rodenbach than a lambic. Not a bad initial foray into the world of barrel-aged sours. If you want to see how things have evolved over the past 1.5 years head down to Wolf’s Ridge today and see if you can score a bottle from the 45 cases brewed for the 5th anniversary party.
Rating scale: 10 = perfection, 9 = excellent, one of the top beers in the category, 8 = very good, 7 = good, a solid beer I’m happy to be drinking, 6 = not bad but not something I’m likely to buy again, 5 = well below average, 3-4 = poor, should be avoided, 1-2 drainpour.
PS – If you like sours and smoked beers don’t sleep on a chance to try a glass of Litany Against Fear, a Lichtenheiner collaboration with Little Fish that combines both flavors in a surprisingly approachable way. It may well be the most intriguing Ohio beer I’ve had since returning to the Buckeye state in August.