Posts Tagged ‘flanders red’

Sour Week: Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten and Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Collaboration beers are all the rage these days: Avery and Russian River’s Collaboration Not Litigation Ale (a blend of beers both named “Salvation”), the Brooklyner-Schneider and Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weisses (the latter of which I’ve rated), the new fruity and malty Van Twee from the minds of De Proef and Bell’s, as well as Flying Dog’s Collaborator Doppelbock, product of the Open Source Beer Project. I’m sure I’m missing scores of unique ones.

2009-08-17-moatenThe reason I mention this is that tonight the first beer I am trying is a collaboration brew from Two Brothers Brewing in Warrenville, Illinois, and the Urthel Brewery in Ruiselede, Belgium. Named Moaten (after the Flemish word for “friends”), this oak aged sour is brewed in the style of a west Flanders red.

The Moaten pours a lightly hazy rust color with some creamy off-white head. The nose is light and somewhat flat. A bit of caramel malt is evident but a dry, somewhat metallic character intervenes. I can detect hints of fruit, perhaps raspberries and oranges.

The taste is also flat but not as much so, with a flavor really representative of an American amber ale. Malt character is the strongest, toast and bread with some caramel. Some fruit is present, and some oak. Just the slightest hint of an acetic tart. Slightly cloying.

Not a bad beer, just not at all what the label tells me it will be. Anyway I had high hopes but low expectations for this one: both breweries are generally great but neither brews sours regularly.

Moaten is a beer that talks big but doesn’t quite deliver. Next up is a beer that makes no claims to style other than “Swiss ale de garde … aged in oak barrels”. However just one whiff and you know it’s a Flanders-style red.

One of the best non-Belgian sours I know of, the Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is brewed by Brasserie Des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Saignel├ęgier, Switzerland. This beer (named after the late brewery cat) is aged in wooden barrels that formerly held one of several wine varietals as well as a few used to age grappa, so the complexity should come naturally. My bottle is a vintage 2007.

2009-08-17-bon-chienA bit of creamy tan head sits atop the turbid, mahogany colored Bon-Chien. Not a lot of head but what is there lasts and leaves an artistic lacing. A rich aroma wafts out: fruit, wood, malt, funk, and sour. Cherries, raisins, and blackberries with a vanilla oak character. A light caramel malt sweetness balances an acidic, cider vinegar nose. Just a bit of sweat adds a funky interest. Great sweet and sour combination.

A dense and difficult flavor. This is a high compliment: the various tastes do not fight for attention, but they do alternately subdue and enhance each other. This beer requires contemplation. At first a sweet maltiness is paired with a significant bitterness. The bitterness is revealed to be an alcohol warming. The maltiness fades and is replaced by a cidery tart. The spicy and sour flavors bring out a strong fruitiness: red apples, cherries, and prunes and a hint of brandy and mulling spices. Some balsamic vinegar rounds out the sour taste. A lively carbonation, healthy tart, and restrained but definitive alcohol flavor.

A tour de force.

++Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien

4.6 (4-9-10-4-19)

+/-Urthel/Two Brothers Moaten

3.2 (3-6-7-3-13)

P.S. Thank you Peggy Sue for knocking half my glass of the Bon-Chien all over the desk and keyboard. I literally tried lapping it up before I realized it wasn’t any good anymore. I had to get a new keyboard in the middle of writing my post. Seriously!

Sour Week: Brouwerij Verhaeghe

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Tonight I will have three beers made by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. Verhaeghe is a great example of a west Flanders brewery, producing a number of what they call red-brown ales as well as a kriek, a pils, a few amber ales, and a Christmas beer. Tonight I will have the three sours they make that I can readily get a hold of: Echt Kriekenbier, Vichtenaar, and Duchesse de Bourgogne. Astute readers may remember that the Duchesse was the first sour I rated on this blog, as well as note that it is now the first beer I have tasted twice.

Brouwerij Verhaeghe

First up, the Echt Kriekenbier, which pours a ruby-tinted caramel amber with wisps of tan head. The nose has a delicate sweet and sour character. I notice cherries at first, then sweet malt and apple cider vinegar. A complex blend of wood, smoke, and blackberry jam makes this subtle aroma remarkably intriguing.

The sublime cherry flavor begins on the lips before the beer even enters the mouth. The balancing tart accentuates the fruit. Rich acidic and caramel malt body, a bit cidery. The cherry is supported and enhanced all the way back, remaining prominent even in the tart aftertaste. A serious kriek.

The Vichtenaar is an opalescent deep hazelnut brown with a thick and creamy tan head. It has a rich woody aroma with a strong vinegar character. The nose is also a little fruity (grapes or dates) and a little malty. Just a touch of bourbon.

This beer tastes like a strong brown aged in a balsamic vinegar cask. Rich malty toast and caramel is complimented by major woody and flavors and a mild acetic sour. Creamy and mouth filling but lively and with a lingering tart.

The Duchesse de Bourgogne is a lightly hazy dark ruby brown with a thin, long-lasting, layer of tan foam. A rich balsamic vinegar and acetic nose with significant fruit: raisins and dates but also kiwi and bubblegum. This beer has the thick aroma of an empty port barrel.

The Duchesse is relatively balanced but leans heavily towards sour. Some complexity comes from a rich oak character and fruit: raspberries, blackberries, and raisins. A robust cider vinegar sour and caramel malt sweet hold on for a bit before yielding to a fruity tart that lingers for quite a while.

+Echt Kriekenbier

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)

+Vichtenaar

4.0 (5-7-7-5-16)

+Duchesse de Bourgogne

4.0 (3-8-8-4-17)

Finally Something Flemish

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Duchesse de BourgogneI’m not going to hide my bias. Belgian beers are my favorites, and among them Flemish beers stand out as heroes among giants. I’m a sucker for anything funky: lambic and gueuze, Flanders reds and browns, saisons. The best beer I have ever tasted was a 1981 vintage Liefmanns Oud Bruin. So the fact that it has taken me this long to have one is insane.

From the Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte I am trying the Duchesse de Bourgogne, named after Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. All beer is variable. Other than the very biggest guys breweries cannot recreate the exact brewing and fermentation situations, and even if they could, the raw materials are never quite the same. This variability is especially prevalent in a brewery that relies on wild yeast or one that does extensive barrel fermentation or aging. As is traditional in Flanders, Verhaeghe uses both these techniques. The Duchesse is the most variable beer I have had. Sometimes it is as flavorful and smooth as the best of them, and sometimes it just comes out a vinegary mess. Let’s see how this batch is.

The Duchesse pours an opal mahogany red-brown. The tan head, while somewhat wimpy, is creamy and long-lasting. The aroma is strong of acetic acid; this comes through as balsamic and cider vinegar. There is also a heavy oak vanilla character and significant fruitiness. Berries and rhubarb are complemented by mango, pineapple, and kiwi. There is a bit of a caramel note as well.

The flavor is overall quite balanced between the caramel malt sweetness and a cider vinegar pucker. Oak, green apples, and raspberries coddle the sourness and temper its potential for fury. The small amount of residual sugar lends a hand, coating the lips and roof of the mouth and enticing the tongue. This one is somewhat more bitter than I remember, lending a complexity but perhaps detracting from the lingering sourness. That’s the best part of sour beer, by the way. As the various organic acids are neutralized in the mouth the flavor takes on new and interesting dimensions. A sour beer isn’t done with your senses for many minutes after the sip. The Duchesse is very much like this, with a lingering character especially on the tip and back of the tongue. The oak and the caramel linger a bit as well, but not as long.

Certainly not the best bottle I’ve had of the Duchesse but a fine example of her.

+Duchesse de Bourgogne

4.0 (4-7-8-5-16)