Bellwood’s Brewery “Donkey Venom” Barrel-Aged Sour, Toronto, Ontario (8.5% Alcohol) Brewery Bottleshop $6.95 (500ml bottle)

It’s only over the past year or so that I have finally come around to enjoying some of the better sour beers out there.

The other evening I picked up a bottle of Bellwood’s Brewery’s notorious Donkey Venom, and was rather impressed, although as it came at the very tail end of a long night of imbibing, it really knocked me for six, and I slept very soundly that night (in my clothes and on the couch, no less). I’m not saying that Donkey Venom has particular soporific qualities, but at that point in the evening its 8.5% goodness really did a number on me. I also had some trouble reading my tasting notes. You get the idea…

Now with this being a barrel-aged dark beer (stout) given some time in the ring with a fearsome tag team of bacteria and Brettanomyces yeast, there’s a hell of a lot to unpack here. 

It pours a dark chocolate black/-just brown and shows a small dark brown head that dissipates pretty quickly. The nose is caramel, mocha, sultanas, a fruity chocolate-covered dark cherry character, and some roasted malt. The palate is obviously very tart and sour, but this is no one trick pony; there are also nuances of raspberries, dark Zinfandel wine, fennel, roasted malt, and some spice from the barrel-aging. The carbonation is medium plus, and the beer finishes with a decidedly tart finish, but there’s also a haunting toffee thing going on.

I’ve been told that this beer only improves with time, and so I’ll go back and buy a few extra bottles this afternoon. It’s really rather excellent!

4.5 apples out of 5
(Four and half apples out of a possible five)

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s slowly becoming a convert.