Review: New Glarus Thumbprint Wild Sour Ale (Why, We Don’t Know)

In Beer Reviews by Karl

New Glarus Says:

Naturally soured by farm valley winds blowing wild yeast into our oak casks. Finally, after a year and a half of patient coaxing Wisconsin dark malts whirl in a kaleidoscope of cedar, caramel and tart green plum exuberance. Available to the exclusive few who travel off the beaten paths, this is authentic Wisconsin sour brown ale. Truly unique this Sour Ale is brewed for those who live on the wild side and is suitable for laying down or consuming immediately, serve at 40 – 45 °F.

New Glarus Wild Sour Ale
American Sour Ale, 5% ABV

2013-08-15 18.28.03

Why we’re reviewing this beer, I couldn’t tell you. You have to drive to Wisconsin to get it. Hell, they’ve probably sold out of it. And who knows — maybe they won’t ever make it again. But Godblessit, it’s been over six months since we wrote about a New Glarus beer, and it’s our site and we love sours so that’s good enough for us. 

I had just grabbed my first four pack of Wild Sour Ale, part of the NG Thumbprint series (“If it’s got red foil on it, people are probably gonna shit themselves about it on BeerAdvocate!” should be the tagline), when I saw this piece from Chris Drosner (@WSJBeerBaron) for the Wisconsin State Journal. In it, they detail the forthcoming plans for the brewery that is The Beacon, the Shining North Star of Wisconsin craft beer:

The addition will house a brewery along the lines of great lambic breweries in Belgium. Among its equipment will be massive oak tanks for aging beers up to three years and a coolship — a large, wide copper pan in which beer can “spontaneously ferment” by becoming a petri dish for the ambient wild yeast that’s always just floating around in our midst. What Carey calls the “fruit beer cave” will jut 70 feet into the hillside behind the Riverside brewery, allowing for both natural climate control and the traditional temperature fluctuations that improve sour beers.

That sounds pretty awesome to us. And this brings us to the Wild Sour Ale, a beer that required some patience to brew and patience to drink. More tart than sour but only by a little, this beer is something of a Goldilocks Beer. IE: If NG’s Berliner Weiss was too tart, or Enigma was too rich and complex, the Wild Sour is juuuuuuuuuust right.

To our taste, we still prefer the Enigma by a country mile, but that’s like saying this Aston Martin is better than that Maybach — they’re both vehicles that will beat the everliving crap out of a Volvo.

Pouring a brownish-red with a white-tan head, this beer is just on the higher side of medium bodied, and tempts you with a light, unthreatening and inviting aroma. Then WHAM — tart and sour up and down, some berry sweetness and without even the richness of a thick, hearty malty scaffolding behind it. Not as palate-smashing as a La Folie, not as thirst-quenching as a Berliner Weiss, this is a little heartier, a little sweatier, a bit richer but not too much.

Yes, I know, you’re shocked — we’re in love with another sour beer from New Glarus.

We’re intrigued by the idea that this could be cellared — but we didn’t have the patience or the self-control to set any aside. Damn fine straight out of the bottle, this brew bodes well for future beers of its kind. But you knew that already, because the label said “New Glarus.”

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About the Author

Karl

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Karl has written about food, travel and beer for Chicago Magazine, Draft Magazine, Thrillist, Time Out Chicago and more. His book, Beer Lovers Chicago, comes out in early 2017, and if you're buying, he's likely having a porter or a pale ale.