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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beer Review: Clutch Dark Sour Ale

I'd once considered hosting a forum for pairing heavy bands with the beer that most appropriately complements their sound. I'd figured there were too many assholes telling me Havarti tasted great paired with a good year of Bordeaux, leaving me to wonder how I could best augment the experience of enjoying some of my favorite bands. Are you really gonna eat cheese as you listen to Electric Wizard or Bongzilla? AND are you really gonna let gouda further distance your wife from your mouth when the Icehouse is doing just fine on its own? Hell no. Beer and stoner-rock go together like Josh and Brody.

Lucky for you, me, and your out-of-work uncle, our beloved Clutch have removed guesswork from such pairings. A brewer from New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO) happened to stumble upon members of Clutch enjoying sandwiches, apparently leading to the architecture of these 22 ounces sitting next to me as rain tickles my aluminum siding. Of course, I turned on Clutch's 1995 self-titled, cracked the seal, and thanked my wife for knowing me better than I know myself.

Clutch fans will promptly admire the label, while New Belgium fans will immediately recognize the bicycle and LIPS OF FAITH stamps. In discussions with peers, I've found this brew VERY hard to find in the Midwest, with ZERO bottles available in Illinois. But I'll admit to nearly crying when three showed up in my dining room on a Sunday morning. At 9% ABV, I foresaw no enthusiasm from my kids in the event I imbibed before noon, forcing me to wait. But New Belgium has a reputation for great craft-brewing, courageous ingredient marriages, and unparalleled independent style.

Clutch's Dark Sour Ale poured like spent motor oil, thick and black as Neil Fallon's beard. I patiently allowed a burly head of dark-beige foam to bubble and clear (sticking like locusts on clover honey), taking note of the smoky cloud left atop the ale's Black Umbrella. The bouquet is heavy with coffee (resulting directly from coffee malts, duh), cherries, and a wine-like alcohol warmth. I quickly grew impatient and could no longer stand it. I had to raise this stemmed-tulip glass ("obtained" at a Chicago pub in 2005, a perfect vehicle for this brew) and Drink to the Dead as soon as possible.

Immediately noticeable on the palate are the "sour" and the "coffee," resulting in a nod to imperial stouts AND the Dark Sour Wood employed by New Belgium. As the sour pinches your inner-cheek (which sets apart this beer from other stouts and darks), malt character and sweetness round out the mouthfeel and make for a ridiculously satisfying experience. In terms of texture, a sticky fuzz holds on and allows elements to linger just long enough for the drinker to remember this is a New Belgium beer, after all. Nuances of other New Belgium beers are detectable, as the most savory and robust of elements characterize everything this brewery produces.

With that 9%, be careful. The alcohol doesn't come as dry and detectable, which could lead to struggles for the Rock 'N Roll Outlaw who doesn't respect the beer's label. Don't worry about the ale's heavy character disrupting the merger of stout & sour. This is a unique and enjoyable ale that shouldn't be poured too cold. Just tell yourself you're not listening to a shitty band at the local dive, where the beer has to be frigid because you need to down it fast. This is Clutch. The band's gonna take their time, you're gonna be okay with it, and you're gonna be rewarded in the end. Flavor, zest, and aroma open up as the beer warms. I'm actually inclined to turn on my A/C.

If you can get your hands on this beer, make no hesitation. Perhaps Clutch and New Belgium know exactly what they're doing with a limited release, because any Clutch product guarantees The Mob Goes Wild, Wild, Wild. New Belgium advised "Follow Your Folly," while Clutch forever promises they'll be "Scaling up the heights of folly." It seems it was only a matter of time before this concord hit shelves. Bottoms Up, Socrates!

"In the middle was a big cauldron
that they were stirring, stirring,
and there were trees around
that they kept burning, burning.
I asked a toothless man
who all these people were, and
he said, "The beermakers,
and we are working, working."

Clutch|New Belgium Brewing|Find it!


  1. Nice! I must find some before the world ends. Have you been to Kuma's Korner? I try to work it in the plans if ever in Chicago.

  2. Kuma's Korner is the ONLY Chicago burger joint that excites me anymore. I'm partial to the High On Fire Burger, the Sriracha and pineapple kill! On a pretzel roll! Maybe they'll be serving this brew!

  3. 1. Beer and metal.. more importantly craft beer and Clutch. awesome
    2. Great review
    3. I loved, "Of course, I turned on Clutch's 1995 self-titled, cracked the seal, and thanked my wife for knowing me better than I know myself." Makes me happy to be married to a wonderful woman.
    4. I wondering if Reg & I can find some in Pittsburgh?

  4. I work at New Belgium...We have a seriously large group of people who work at the brewery who rock Clutch daily. It can be heard in all parts of the brewery...This beer sold out in 23 days. Shoulda made a bigger batch, all hail The Yeti!!!


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