Verhaeghe: Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium: Sour Red: 6.2% ABV)

Visual: Very dark red. Cloudy. Thin grey head. Still.

Nose: Red wine. Sour. Sour red cherries. Tannins. Vinegar touch. Gummed brown paper.

Body: Sweet cherries and glacier cherry notes. Black cherries. Tart apples. Vinegar. Acidic dryness. Vinous red wine. Madeira.

Finish: Black cherry. Tart sour cherry sweets. Vinegar touch. Envelope gum. Light oak. Dessert wine. Strawberry.

Conclusion: I freaking love this beer. It is like some one took a Rodenbach Grand Cru, mixed it with sour red wine, added a hint of dessert wine to soften the edges just a touch, then filled it with varied cherries. In a way this actually does the concept of Rodenbach Alexander better than Rodenbach Alexander does.

Now, that said, it doesn’t have the almost holographic complexity built up from the layers of imagery that comes with the acidity of Rodenbach Grand Cru, nor the dedication to harsh edges those beers bring – but despite that it isn’t a beer to pull its punches. Under the sweet cherries and huge wodge of vinous notes there are vinegar and gummed brown paper notes that wouldn’t look out of place in the harsher Flemish reds and browns.

It has a lovely range of tart yet sweet fruit flavours with a dry acidity backing that accentuates the vinous feel. Under that is a hint, but only a hint, of oak. It feels like it deserves the term usually given to lambics – the wine of beers – red wine in this case. It balances between wine and beer brilliantly, between acidity and sweetness, fruit and gummy character.

One of the all time classic beers for me – unlike so many others that want to push the edge this one does not get lost in the pushing and remembers to be enjoyable and complex with that.

It you have not tried this one, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Background: I have had this beer many times, introduced family members to it in Belgium who loved it. Frankly I knew that, barring them having utterly messing up the recipe in recent months, that I was going to enjoy this before I started the notes. However, since I had not done notes on it, and I enjoy it so, I thought it would be cool to grab a bottle for tasting from Independent Spirit. This is a Flemish red that, last I checked, is aged on average 12 months. Put on a collection of Madness tunes while drinking this – they were probably the first band I got into many years ago and I still enjoy breaking them out every now and then for a bit of ska fun – much lighter and bouncier than my usual tunes.

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