Caractere Rouge

Rodenbach: Caractere Rouge (Belgium: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Clear cherry red. Medium tight bubbled burgundy touched head.

Nose: Tart cherries and sour cherry sweets. Tart apples. Strawberries. Twigs.

Body: Vinegar. Strawberry. Gummed brown envelopes. Raisins. Fruitcake. Dry and tart. Strawberry jelly (Jello for our independence day celebrating friends). Sherbet feel. Cider. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Oak. Red wine. Apple. Dry white wine. Black berries. Cherries. Blue berry.

Conclusion: My complicate relationship with Rodenbach continues. This beer, somewhat thankfully, plays more towards the approachable end of the spectrum than the legendary challenging Grand Cru. Which admittedly is a statement akin to saying more towards the safe end of the spectrum than shoving your genitals into a sharks gob and daring it to bite. True, but not really helpful for any useful measurement.

Here the very tart and almost vinegar styled beer of the grand cru has been shoved full of sweet fruit and smoothed out in oak.


Well, initially it seems to do something between jack and shit. While the aroma is full of fruit, the first sip is pure old school vinegary rodenbach grand cru. There is this gummy brown envelope element, like licking an envelope (Yes I know this doesn’t sound very nice – it actually works here. yes I know that sounds stupid), but initially no fruit.

It does come through shortly though, strawberries, raisins, blueberry and cherries. Oddly only one of those were used in the making. Go figure. They are slow to develop, staring initially as hints and adding layers over time. That brown paper and vinegar base now becomes a sharp contrast to the tart fruit and cider like notes. However due to the added sweetness it seems to lose that almost holographic mix of flavours you get with the heavily acidic beers, going instead for a more stable set of flavours.

It is less insane, and thus less intriguing than grand cru, but it is still distinctive and very well put together. You do not see this quality, or these elements together often. For those people well dispositioned to its quirks this is a magnus opus. For me it is a great high quality beer, drying, tart, refreshing and puckering. It is wine like in some elements, but this is, at its heart, vinegar, brown paper and fruit. I can’t imagine a wine with those elements that I would appreciate as much as this.

Well worth trying, if only to say you have.

Background: After referencing Scroobius Pip in the last review I put them on again for this one, especially for the ever haunting “Terminal” off the Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip collaborations. Anyway, this is one of only 900 bottles, and picked up from Corks Of Cotham. They tend to have some very nice rarities there. This is rodenbach with added cherries, raspberries and cranberries in oak. Also the label on this beer made me look up what macerated means as the beer did that to the fruit. Beer is educational. (Note, this beer was written up yesterday, back when the Independence Day reference would have made sense. I left it in, just because)