Wednesday, 25 January 2012

REVIEW #8: Duchesse De Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe Vichte)

Again a change of direction, this time I'm reviewing a classic Flanders Red Ale, a truly distinctive beer! This 'Burgundy of Belgium' will be the first in a series of reviews exploring the more unusual and exceptional beers of Belgium.

'Duchesse' pours a deep, dark red. The head disappears abruptly after pouring, leaving a liquid that could be mistaken for wine at first glance, especially when served in a wine glass (a vessel which particularly suits this type of ale). One sniff and you'll partly realise what your in for; a sweet & sour yet quite sharply acidic aroma emanates from the beer. On first sip a huge sherberty sweetness is apparent, with acidity assaulting the tongue. A vinegery, oaky sourness comes into play whilst the finish is tart and almost chocolatey. Overall its thirst quenching and refreshing. It took a while for my taste buds to learn to appreciate this style of beer - a 'several beers later...' scenario - but I think it was definitely worth the effort and the Flanders Red is a firm favourite of mine these days.

Perhaps the most renowned beers of this ilk are by Rodenbach (now owned by Palm Breweries), a brewery which specialised in Flemish Reds. Brouwerij Verhaeghe however produces a range of styles, including pale ales and Flanders Oud Bruin's. Duchesse is probably their most widely-available and has won man awards as an exemplary Flemish Red. The method of production is a testament to the effort and care Verhaeghe put into this ale:

First of all its a blend of 2 ales, young and old. Both beers undergo a double fermentation process; the wort is first exposed to the air in order to allow wild yeasts such as Brettanomyces and bacteria such as Acetobacter to work with the added Saccharomyces yeast in fermentation. The younger ale is then matured for 8 months and the older for 18 months, both in oak barrels. These barrels will no doubt be teeming with flavour-producing microbes (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Acetobacter, Brettanomyces, etc) which will combine with and act upon the beer itself as well as the leachate, such as tannins and vanillins, from the oak. The hops are aged for over a year and primarily act as a preservative rather than a flavour-contributor. The Flemish Red production process has several similarities to the lambic style and the two styles can often be similar in taste. The eponymous Duchesse meanwhile is Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482), a Belgian who died aged just 25 in a horse riding accident. Her body is interred at a church in Bruges.
  • MALTS: DARK ROASTED (but often vienna or munich)
  • IBU: LOW <10
  • ABV: 6%

1 comment:

  1. Loved this Flemish Red! I was surprised to see how different your bottle is than here in the US.


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