It took about 10 years for Americans to get used to the bitterness of India Pale Ale. How long will it take for us to get used to Flemish brown ale, which is sour, actually sour?
Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja is an easy introduction to the style. It's a serious beer, blended without filtering from oak barrels where the contents have been aging from two to 10 months and then bottle-conditioned for months longer. But it's not as fiercely sour as, say, some of Russian River's sour ales. After all, this is a brewery with a gentle, reassuring name, and the label shows the fairytale hero Puss in Boots. (Well, Puss appears to be embattled on the deck of a pirate ship, but still.)
It pours dark amber with a substantial off-white head. The nose is earthy, musky and yeasty, the palate distinctly, but not shockingly, sour — about as sour as pomegranate juice — with a mild fruity flavor, reminiscent of raspberries, sour cherries and green apples. A little spicy snap follows, then a long gentle finish of caramel and more sour fruit.
So it would be a good food beer, one to use more like a wine than a beer because of the acidity. It would suit pork chops with the traditional apple sauce, buttery hard cheeses like havarti (served with grapes) and onion soup.
Style: A fruity, caramel-y ale as tart as a really dry Chablis or a Portuguese vinho verde.
Price: $10.99 to $12.99 for 750 milliliters
Where to find it: Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles (310) 475-0606, http://www.wallywine.com; Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa (949) 650-8463, http://www.hitimewine.net; Lone Hill Liquors in Glendora (626) 963-0611; Beverage Warehouse in Los Angeles, (310) 306-2822, ; Red Carpet Wine in Glendale, (800) 339-0609, http://www.redcarpetwine.com; Wade's Wines in Westlake Village (805) 522-4445, http://www.wadeswines.com; and Wine Country in Signal Hill (562) 597-8303, http://www.thewinecountry.com.