Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cascade Sang Noir Vertical

Last Thursday evening I was encouraged to get out of the house when my wife was hosting her book group, so I walked down to the Cascade Barrel House to try the 2007-2010 four-year vertical tasting of Sang Noir they were offering that night.  I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool fan of sour beers, but I do appreciate cherry beers like Cascade's Kriek, and I have a history with Sang Noir, having tried a couple of vintages of it at previous Holiday Ale Festivals (in 2009 and 2010).

It was a small-world evening at Cascade that night.  When I arrived, honorary Portlandians Jim and Joan were holding down the west end of the bar, and I sat at an open barstool not far from them.  You might recognize them as the couple from Alabama that sports their funky beer-patch jackets every year at the Holiday Ale Festival -- I snapped a picture of them for my recap of the HAF 2008.  After a while of talking to Jim and Joan across the fellow on the barstool to my left, I finally introduced myself to him only to find out that he was Dan Engler, the owner and brewmaster of one of Portland's newest breweries, the German-oriented Occidental BrewingThen Portland beer expert and Sierra Nevada Beer Camp alumnus Harry Sanger (in the picture) showed up to try the vertical, saying that all the "Sang Noir"s on the chalkboard kept catching his eye and making him think they'd written "Sanger" up there.

Anyway, about the beer.  Sang Noir means "black blood" in French, though it's not noticeably darker than Cascade's Kriek, or even the Sang Rouge. Cascade says it is "a blend of red and double red beers that were aged in Bourbon and Pinot Noir barrels for 12 to 24 months then blended with barrel aged Bing and sour pie cherries".

All of the vintages were extremely tart, with Cascade's characteristic lactic bite.  My favorite was definitely the 2009 -- it was the smoothest and clearest version, and had the strongest cherry flavor.  Dan and Harry both preferred the 2008, which was by far the funkiest vintage of the four:  quite musty and earthy.  The 2010 was probably the simplest of the bunch -- very sour of course, but with a decent cherry flavor.  I thought the 2007 was starting to show some oxidation, though maybe that was just part of the intentional woody funk:  my notes describe its flavors as pomegranate and oak.

When I tried Sang Noir 2010 at the 2010 Holiday Ale Fest, I wrote that it had more cherry and less funk than the 2009 version.  That wasn't the situation Thursday, where the 2009 was definitely the least funky and most cherry of the the four vintages.  It makes me wonder if the dates on these are shifting:  is the 2008 served at the pub the same batch that was called 2009 at last year's HAF?  Similarly, the fruitier, less-funky 2009 at the pub was more reminiscent of HAF's 2010 vintage.

As of last night, Cascade's website still listed the 2010 and 2009 Sang Noir on tap (only 3 oz. tasters of the 2009).  If you're like me, and the cherry interests you more than the sour, I recommend trying the 2009 before it runs dry.


  1. I need to encourage my wife to host a book club. Can that happen weekly?

  2. I was jealous when I saw this posted... and "hi" to Harry. Ran into him at HAF2011.


  3. That sounds like a real pleasant evening, I've only had the '09 and I remember it being wonderful... Makes me miss my days in the Northwest. Thanks for the write up.

  4. Cascade has a confusing way of doing their vintages. What you had at the 2010 HAF I believe is what they were calling the 2009 at Cascade's vertical.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I will delete spam and long stupid comments. Comments that are smart or short will survive.

Please tag anonymous comments with your name, initials, or CB handle so that people can respond to you.