I joined a beer club.
Actually, it was joined for me. It was a Christmas gift from my wife. It is the best Christmas gift, because it means for the next three months, I get fancy beers delivered to my door. Two big bottles of fancy beer a month. It brings a tear to my eye just to think about it.
Weyerbacher Brewing’s “Tango” is the first beer I’m trying from the beer club. In theory, it is my platonic ideal of beer: A Belgian dark ale, brewed with cherries.
Cherry Belgians and I have a history at this point. The first beer I ever drank – not including, of course, the sips of Budweiser or whatever that my dear old dad gave me when we were watching football games and mom wasn’t watching – was “Kriek”, a Belgian cherry lambic. I drank it at a cafe in Belgium, with my parents, when I was 15 years old. My brother, then 13, had one too. We all had a good laugh, because our underage American asses were drinking beer, and it was all perfectly legal. Belgium is a wonderful country. I swear, when I was 15, it was the best thing I had ever tasted.
It’s been nearly 20 years since that fateful sip, and I’ve only had “Kriek” a couple times since then, and as beers go, it kind of tastes like Kool-Aid. Which is not a bad thing, actually! It’s quite enjoyable, especially chilled, though my beer tastes have evolved in 20 years to appreciate slightly less sweet tastes. As far as Belgian (or, really, “Belgian-style”) beers brewed with cherries go, Ommegang’s “Three Philosophers” is my favorite. It’s a wonderful beer, and everyone should try it. If it’s in my home and I have company, I force it on people. It’s that kind of beer.
Weyerbacher’s “Tango” is not a beer I would force on people. It’s a difficult beer, one that I expected to come off like “Three Philosophers”, but which in reality is something of a polar opposite. Where the slight whiff of cherry in “Three Philosophers” turns a smooth, highly-alcoholic dark ale into something eminently drinkable, “Tango” is simply crawling with sour cherries, a cutting complement to an unabashedly alcoholic (10.6%!) ale.
The official literature for “Tango” describes it as ruby-colored, but it just looks messy; opaque, reddish-brown, and with a head that just keeps growing, long after it has overstayed its welcome. Take a sip and it punches you in the face, hitting you with cherries first, ale second, and alcohol third. There is no sweetness to the cherry here – rather, any sweetness detected is in the ale itself, which comes off as very similar to some of the bourbon-barrel ales I’ve tried recently. The cherries greet you first, though. In a milder ale, they might actually be welcome, too, but getting punched on the way in and on the way out feels like a bit much.
Two glasses in, “Tango” wears out its welcome. It is an interesting flavor, unapologetic in its willingness to ask for attention, but probably not something I’ll seek out again.
At least, not while “Kriek” and “Three Philosophers” are around.