OF THE MORE THAN two dozen beers in New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, this collaboration with Cigar City is one of very few not to have its own name. Perhaps after tasting it the brewers didn’t feel it was worth the extra effort. Though not quite bad, this effort just seems to have missed the target—especially given the firepower on hand.
It may just be a result of trying to do too much—with too much: Belgian yeast, two kinds of peppers, and hops from three continents. At 8.5% ABV and golden-hued, this might could have had a generally Bière de Garde kind of profile, but the elevated IBUs (50) and exotic herbal flavors just don’t come together very well. Its first impression is friendly, even clement, showing some lemongrass in the aroma, pale grains, peach, and a complex mélange of globally sourced hops (Target, Centennial, Cascade, Pacific Jade, Wakatu, Simcoe)—herbal, perfumy, and tropical with a dose of pine. The midsection is then a little citric and begins to show some of the grain base, but the beer’s real statement comes late, where the light herbal notes get funkier and the peppers underscore a pronounced bitterness.
Fermentation was allowed to be rather complete, giving the beer a light body and high effervescence that does little to center the stronger flavor tangents of its back end. The finish is grassy, a touch vegetal even. Perhaps this makes it a good partner in spicy dishes—Thai curry, maybe—but one might as well cook with this beer as drink it. Though New Belgium’s Lips of Faith can indeed be funky, herbal, and quirky, they usually still strive to be alluring. This one is just peculiar.
Served: 750 ml bottled 9/1/13