New@Life, Oozlefinch Craft Brewery + Old Ox Brewery

There we are, sitting at spacebar on a seemingly random Thursday night.  The menu has almost completely changed over from the previous week, and their usually innocuous tap list posting to social media looked the same as usual.  Well, almost the same.  Two Oozlefinch beers on draught?  In NoVA?!  This required a visit.  To our half-surprise, we ran into the owner of Oozlefinch, Russel Tinsley, as he made table rounds to talk about the two offerings.  There was a fruited Berliner Weisse, but the more intriguing beer was a collaboration with Old Ox Brewery (one of our local faves) that was…a sour Kolsch?

That beer ended up being such a delightful surprise that we stopped by The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery on Fort Monroe to check out their digs and talk shop about their sour barrel aging program.  For more on that conversation with Russ and Headbrewer Mike Donovan, check out Virginia Craft Brews magazine.

As for New@Life, we concur with Russ who intoned, “I cannot stop drinking that Sour Kolsch.”

New@Life, Oozlefinch + Old Ox Collaboration
Sour Kolsch, 5.2% ABV, 2 IBU

Presentation:  Crowler pour into tulip.

Appearance:  Cloudy, lemony yellow that’s fairly uniform.  A very fizzy head bubbles up just as quickly as it dissipates.  No trace of lattice or lacing.

Taste:  Lemon zest, dew, and a touch of buttered bread greet the nose.  With as much sincerity as I can put behind it, the aromas aren’t too dissimilar from opening up a Bit O’ Honey bar.  Don’t expect that earthen sweetness to continue, though.  It’s certainly a tart body, yet any puckering quickly dissipates into a crisp, semi-fruit finish.  Some more acidity and brine would put this into Gose territory, but that lemon and butter component makes this a truly unique hybrid.  A lot of fun to drink and flesh out all its layers.

Mouth Feel:  The zest in this beer comes from two components:  a lowered pH for the tartness, and a robust carbonic acid presence.  It’s playful, with just the slightest impression on the front and sides of the tongue.  You will have no issues whether you choose to sip or slug New@Life.

Overall:  Odds are you may not encounter this exact beer ever again.  Oozlefinch is very much interested in revisiting New@Life, but the yeast is banked locally at Jasper Yeast Lab up by Old Ox which makes it difficult to pursue on their own.  In addition, since Oozlefinch uses a mobile canning operation that’s not particularly amenable to live yeast cultures around its equipment, Russ lamented that any distributed version “will have to end up being kettle soured.”  No matter.  I was vehemently against sour beers as recently as a year ago, but blends like these are what have brought me around.  You get a bit of both worlds, with neither the tartness nor the butteriness getting too frisky.  And if Oozlefinch’s founder is out there screaming from the mountaintop that this is his favorite of the 90+ beers they’ve ever brewed, this seems an experimenting worth repeating!

Score:  8.7

For more on Oozlefinch Craft Brewery and their recent success starting up a sour program, check out our feature article in the September 2018 edition of Virginia Craft Brews!

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