Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Duchesse De Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe)

This is the Flanders red ale that Comrade Snoop Dogg bought for the Beer Club, not realizing until it was rung up that the price was $7 a bottle. We all had a good laugh at that one. From the cost, I figured the beer must be something special, so I have been waiting for an occasion to drink it when I knew I could give it proper attention. Decided to pop it open tonight.

The diminutive brown bottle is truly elegant in appearance, with its gently tapering shoulders and its label featuring a classical Flemish painting of the beer's eponym, Mary of Burgundy. (I haven't found out for sure, but the painting may be by Hugo van der Goes).

I see a lot of sediment in the pour, but the beer ends up surprisingly clear in the glass. It is a warm ruby color with ecru foam that is fluffy at first, then dies down to a film with a bit of clumpiness. The nose carries cider vinegar, a bit of banana, and a mineral quality like baking soda or seltzer water. Clearly something different going on here.

The flavor begins tart but not puckering. After the fizz, the taste is strongly fruity -- grape-like, but less like concord grape and more like slightly flat grape soda. The tartness comes back and really hugs the tongue, making the medium weight of the mouthfeel seem fuller. Further on in the taste, I find some sourness and a slight copper penny metallic tang. It ends somewhat musty, acidic, and dry but with subtle residual notes of grain, dried plums, and stale keg beer. I am surprised at how many subtle things are going on in the aftertaste, given the intense impressions happening in the main flavor.

I realize that almost every description I have used about this ale sounds negative (if not revolting), but the overall effect is actually intriguing -- I'm sure many consider it sublime. There is not much within my realm of experience to compare it to. It most resembles the few lambics I've tried, but also is surprisingly similar to Dogfish Head's Tweason'ale, though much funkier. Clearly the name of Science compels me toward more exploration in this part of the beer spectrum, but I have the feeling the exploration will be slow and expensive...

From the bottle's label:

Belgian top-fermented reddish-brown ale, a blend of 8 and 18 month old beers following the careful maturation in oak casks. Serve in range of 47 - 53° F

Featured beer:
Duchesse De Bourgogne

Honorable mentions:

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