One of my favorite Belgian beer styles, Flanders Ales give you that lovely juxtapositon of sweet and sour, rustic and elegant, young and old. Whether aged in oak for extended periods of time or younger in age, Flanders Ales offer wonderful complexity and are a natural crossover beer for many wine drinkers. In fact, several wine lovers I know have told me it was a Flanders Ale that changed their mind about craft beer. Bravo Belgium!
Rodenbach Classic (Flanders Red Ale) 5.2% ABV: A deeper brown in color than the Grand Cru, the Classic is also much, much milder in aroma and flavor. On the nose, wet oak, caramel, dark brown sugar, with subdued hints of cherry in the background. On the palate, the same.
Everything in the Classic seems dialed back about 5-10 notches from the Grand Cru, a beer I adore, and will review later this month. This is due to the aging of 24 months on the Classic, producing a more rounded, subtle, refined beer. The Grand Cru by comparison, is a blend of young and old, lending it brighter color, tart vibrancy and more direct aromas and flavors. While I enjoyed the Classic, and it is a nice, mild Flanders, I will undoubtedly always select the Grand Cru.
CLICK HERE to see the Rodenbach video about their process. Complete with a cartoon "friendly bacterium." Give it a look and see if you catch the funny error in translation...
Ommegang Rouge (Flanders Red) 5.5% ABV: Made in collaboration with and at Brouwerij Bockor in Belgium. I didn't even know Ommegang made a Flanders! So I was thrilled when I saw this was at Downtown Johnny Browns on a recent visit. Mmm. Definitely some funk here: barnyard, horse, hay, and wet trodden earth. You could seriously be standing in a stable. Wonderful notes of sour cherry and oak show themselves, particularly on the entry. I loved it. The funkier the better, I say. And as it warms, the funk meter keeps rising. Definitely a beer to try. Let me know what you think!
Brouwerij Van Steenberge Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale: (Oud Bruin) 5.5% ABV: Named for the famous and adored Monk's Cafe In Philly. Amber color with red highlights. A wine drinker's beer. Lots of red fruit up front with sweet and sour nose. Red currant, maple cookies, bread yeast, with some nuttiness.
Some sweetness on palate, particularly on the entry. A bit of sour and cleansing dryness on the finish. Not cloying. You want to take another sip. Similar in profile to the Duchesse. Subtle sourness, balanced, easy drinking.
A great intro beer into Flemish ales, and for those who like sweeter fruit lambics and are thinking of trying more sour ales. Would pair nicely with a dessert of maple nut cookies or a flaky cherry tart.
If you haven't experimented with Flanders yet, do yourself a favor and get out there. A lovely style sure to bring smiles to your beer-loving mugs.