Every now and then, my local bottle shop gets a nice surprise from out of town. Every now and then, that surprise is from Portland’s Cascade Brewing, a brewery famous for specializing in sour ales and their one-off brews.
For nearly a year, I had a bottle of Cascade’s Sang Noir in my pantry, which scores a “world-class” 97 on Beer Advocate. This heavenly barrel-aged beer offered a one-in-a-kind drinking experience, having also been aged on a variety of cherries.
Why is this beer so divine? Let’s find out…
Pouring a radiant amber-red, Sang Noir makes no niceties about what went into the fermentation process. The aroma of the beer immediately allows for a sweet bubblegum-based tartness to fill your nostrils. Aged for a year on Bing and sour pie cherries, there’s no missing tart smells from the fruit, although at no time did anything become truly sour. That’s because pleasant notes of honey and generic berry sweetness round out the smell with just a hint of smokey oak hiding at the edge of each sniff. All this pairs perfectly together to form great complexity rather than any individual aspect overpowering the others.
As expected, the taste felt primarily based on a dry tartness, but it never became lip puckering. The cherries are distinctively found on the tongue, first giving off some sweetness before turning tart in the finish. Oak from the beer’s aging process wasn’t as obvious as on the nose of the beer, but offers a good, earthy balance as the beer warms, also showcasing light touches of earthy tobacco.
Sang Noir undeniably lingers from one sip to the next and made me think of a sweeter version of Rodenbach’s Grand Cru. However, where Rodenbach’s sour ale sits at 5.5 percent ABV, Sang Noir clocks in at an undetectable 9.2 percent. It’s very easy to drink a bottle by yourself thanks to wonderful aromas and favors, but you’ll definitely feel it afterward.
Sang Noir stats: N/A except for use of cherries and aged in Pinot and Whiskey barrels.