Earlier this year, when I was still living in San Francisco, a New Belgium rep that I worked with told me that the brewery was going to be shutting the doors on the Lips of Faith series in the upcoming months for something new. This information really bummed me out as I looked forward to those experimental beers and wild ales (some worked for me and others didn’t, but I admired the sense of creativity). Some of the classics would remain, like La Folie, Transanatlantique Kriek, and Le Terroir. I was intrigued to see what Wood Cellar Reserve, their new program, would churn out.
In early October, I noticed some of these new beers popping up in shops. On a recent excursion to pick up some beer there were a couple of options to choose from the Wood Cellar Reserve line. Two stood out due to their names, Oscar and Felix. Oscar, the base for La Folie, was aged in blackberry whiskey barrels, while Felix, the base for Le Terroir, was aged in apple whiskey barrels. All the barrels for these sours come from Leopold Bros. in Denver. Both appealed to me, but since it is supposedly fall (the weather can’t seem to make up its mind lately) I went with Felix. Forget pumpkins, apples connect me to the Autumns growing up in Western New York.
When I think of the names Oscar and Felix together (separately you have the Academy Awards, a muppet, and a cartoon cat) it automatically brings up memories of watching reruns as a kid of The Odd Couple starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. I never saw the original film with Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, and I certainly never watched latest adaptation on CBS (which somehow ran for three seasons). Klugman’s crotchety Oscar Madison always sticks out in my mind so I decided to pair this beer with a movie featuring an old curmudgeon. Granted, I probably should have gone with a bottle of Oscar, but apples. In an act of serendipity there happens to be a cat in the movie named Felix.
Felix Aged in Apple Whiskey Barrels: The Basics
- Brewery: New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)
- Style: Golden Sour
- ABV: 8.8%
Felix Aged in Apple Whiskey Barrels: The Details
This golden sour ale is aged in barrels that previously held an apple whiskey using good ol’ New York apples (I have a very strong and biased opinion on apples so this is good). Upon pouring the ale I noticed how much it looked like cider (the good kind, not Martinelli’s). It was hazy with an amber/caramel appearance. There was no head to it, but there was some light lacing around the edge. Noticeable bubbles could be seen coming up from the bottom of the glass. The nose is tart with a slight vinegar smell that seems to disappear after the first sniff. That is followed by oak, green apples, some lemon zest, and a touch of whiskey booziness. After a few sips I picked up some grass and caramel to round things out.
At first the taste, this barrel-aged golden ale has a light sweetness to it, but then that is washed over by the tartness. The citrus-like acidity almost crosses over into being sour but somehow dials it back. The combination of sweet, tart, and apples is reminiscent of an apple candy, but without the artificiality of it all. The whiskey notes are pretty muted with only a trace of oak and toffee, and vanilla on the finish. I’ve had some apple flavored whiskeys that come off sickly sweet, and the sweetness on this doesn’t come anywhere near that, which is a really nice.
Despite the lack of presence of head this ale tingles on the tongue. It has a spritzer quality to it as it is light and effervescent. The 8.8% ABV is unrecognizable. There might have been a slight presence of heat, but not at any level to make you pause between sips. Even with the kiss of sweetness at the beginning of each sip this beer finishes dry and crisp. I wouldn’t say the tartness lingers. It’s more like it comes in waves. It subsides after you swallow it down, but if wait for a moment you can feel the tartness creeping back into your mouth.
St. Vincent (2014)
- Director: Theodore Melfi
- Genre: Comedy/Drama
- Total Running Time: 1hr 42mins
- Rating: PG-13
- Availability: Netflix
There’s a good chance you might dismiss St. Vincent (the movie, not the musician), but it does have Bill Murray. It’s a story we’ve seen before. A grumpy old man begrudgingly becomes friends with a child, and the both impart life lessons to each other. Yet, this movie has an abundance of heart to make up for its retread tale. Just think of Bill Murray’s portrayal of Vincent as an even more down and out Royal Tenenbaum. This film has a sneaky Wes Anderson influence without going full Wes Anderson.
Vincent is introduced as a cliche. He’s a chain-smoking alcoholic that spends his days betting on the wrong horses at the racetrack, going to the strip club to visit his pregnant Russian “girlfriend” (played by Naomi Watts), and hanging out at the local watering hole. Vincent is a beaten down, cantankerous person. His routine gets upended when Maggie and her son, Oliver (played by Melissa McCarthy and Jaeden Lieberher), move in next door. The mother and son have their problems as Maggie is fighting her cheating husband over the custody of their son, and Oliver is adjusting to his new Catholic school (he thinks he might be Jewish). On his first day the class bullies take Oliver’s belongings during gym, so he finds himself locked out of his home at the end of the day and his mother still at work. Vincent gets roped into babysitting Oliver (for a price).
What was supposed to be a one time deal becomes a daily thing due to Maggie’s hectic schedule at the hospital. Soon, Vincent is picking up Oliver after school, scaring off the bullies, teaching Oliver how to fight, and taking trips to race track and bar. Oliver, a smart kid, is able to turn Vincent’s luck at the race track. The layers of Vince slowly get peeled back like an onion. Vincent starts to care for something other than his cat, Felix.
As usual, this type of story there is a point where there becomes a divide between the two friends. That is followed by a coming-together, and a redemption arc. The bare bones of this story is nothing new. Yet, Bill Murray brings something unique to his cranky Brooklyn native. Lieberher plays a nice balance of too-smart-for-his-own-good with a down-to-earth quality. There are moments where the movie could have gotten really melodramatic, but these scenes get handled with subtlety and a dry sense of humor that is refreshing.
Felix Aged in Apple Whiskey Barrels just might have become my new fall seasonal beer. Sure, with its ABV and price, it might not be something you’re going to knock back a bunch of in one sitting. But, it doesn’t come across as a big beer. To me, it feels more fall-like than other seasonal beers with its tart apple presence. You can have your pumpkin beers. This version of Felix is easy drinking for a sour. It’s dry with just a touch of sweetness and has a tartness that keeps you going back for more. If the whiskey notes were a little more dominant it would still make for a fine sipper during this time of year.
St. Vincent paired well with this ale. A New York movie to go along with a golden sour using apple (from New York) whiskey barrels. By the way, Vincent loves his whiskey. You could also say Vincent is a tart character, too. There are some really touching moments in this film that build to a conclusion that really tugs on the heartstrings. If you love The Royal Tenenbaums you might enjoy this one. Plus it’s nice to see Melissa McCarthy in a role that doesn’t depend on her pratfalls and physical comedy. There are also some nice visual moments throughout the film. There is one relating to the visual motif for sainthood that you might miss or catch and think it’s hacky. I thought it was a nice touch.