Posts Tagged ‘Flemish red’

Two Red Beers

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

I picked up a bottle based purely on the style indication “French red ale”. I am hoping that this one is similar to Flemish red ales, one of my favorite kinds of beer. Red beers from Flanders are sour, aged in oak barrels which are infused with a cocktail of bacteria and yeast. The end result is a beer with a heck of a lot of character.

The French offering is called Gavroche, brewed by Brasserie St. Sylvestre in Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel. This hamlet, with just over a thousand residents, is in the far north of France, well within the sphere of influence of Flanders. The bottle has easily the most interesting closure system I have seen in a while: it is corked with a mushrooming cork, like many Belgians, but instead of a thin wire cage to keep it in, there is one hefty wire bar across the top.

I can tell from the nose that this beer isn’t sour, so I’m glad I’m trying it first. The Gavroche pours a beautiful orange-red, somewhere between copper and rust, clear enough to be brilliant, but with a satisfactory haze. The buff head is lusciously thick and creamy. The aroma is mild, dry and somewhat dusty. There is some toast and chestnut from the malt and a fair herbal and earthy hop character.

The flavor is much more assertive than the aroma would indicate, largely due to the alcohol. A rich nuttiness from the malt blends well with an alcohol flavor suited to a port wine. Both of these are supported by a solid body, which the beer’s strong effervescence keeps refreshing. Caramel and toast malt flavors come through on the back, along with a strong herbal hop character. None of it lingers very long, or even long enough.

The other red I will have tonight is brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge for the Monk’s Café in Philadelphia. This one is a sour, though Van Steenberge isn’t traditionally a sour beer house.

The Monk’s Café is a wonderful ruby red, lightly hazy, with a little bit of an off-white head. The nose is definitely that of a Flemish red: strongly woody, with a significant balsamic vinegar aspect. A rich nuttiness and some sweetness linger in the background.

The residual sugar is actually a bit more prominent than the organic acid. Caramel malt and some bread are followed by a balsamic vinegar flavor. Rather than evolving, like many examples, the depth of flavor somewhat falls away, leaving just a mouth puckering accompanied by residual sweetness. The mouth puckering doesn’t last long either, and the sweetness turns cloying.


3.9 (5-6-8-4-16)

+/-Monk’s Café

3.3 (4-7-6-2-14)

The Session #42: A Special Place, a Special Beer

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This entry is the second of a number that I wrote notes for while in Germany but never posted. Specifically, this was intended to be my submission for The Session #42.session_logo The Session is a beer blog carnival. Many beer writers all around the Tubes come together the first Friday of every month to talk about a particular topic. August was hosted by The Beer Runner, Derrick Peterman, who implored us to “write about a special place in your life”. The prompt is located here and the roundup can be found here. For more information about The Session, please visit Jay Brooks’ website.

When I found out that this month’s topic was ‘place’, I knew immediately where to write about. If there is anything like a beer mecca, it must be in Belgium, and specifically, the Delirium Cafe in Brussels. Other places may have more personal meaning to me (like The Sanctuary in Iowa City), but the Delirium is far and away the largest selection of beer available anywhere, and for that it deserves a visit from each and every beer fan.

It might be misleading to claim they have so many beers available (they had 2004 on one day in 2004 when the Guiness Book of Records inspectors counted), because many of them are imports. In my opinion, you would be crazy to order a German beer in the Delirium, despite the fact that they call those their ‘specialty’. However, I will confess to having a Denver Pale Ale while there, if only so I could say that I had. It’s just like Frank Möhlenkamp said, “you wouldn’t go to Bordeaux and order a white wine”, so you shouldn’t go to Brussels and order anything but a sour beer. At least for the first round.

Felix Speciaal OudenaardsOne of the best parts about the Delirium is their cellar. There are several vintages available of a number of beers. The menu is rarely current, though, so tip your bartender and they may feel like telling you about some secret bottle they have stashed away.

Adding to the impression that the Delirium is actually some sort of temple to beer is the vast collection of bottles, glassware, trays, towels, and every other kind of beer memorabilia decorating the whole pub. Old barrels even serve as a few of the tables.

But the Delirium is never campy. The chairs are comfortable, and you get the idea that it would not be too hard to become a regular there, if one were lucky enough to live in Brussels. The bartenders know their shit. It is through and through a real place: if you squint, you can almost see Jimbo’s old Underground pub in Grinnell.

Friends at the Delirium CafeI didn’t start writing about the Delirium out of the blue: just days prior to The Session I had the opportunity to bring two of my good friends there. I was lucky enough to be able to share some of my favorite sours and other Belgians with them, as fresh as can be.

We tried a sour I hadn’t seen before, Felix Speciaal Oudenaards from the Brouwerij Clarysse in Oudenaarde, East Flanders. It pours a deep caramel red color with a creamy beige head. The nose is big and sweet, with a strong balsamic vinegar character and a good woodiness.

The taste is also sweet and balsamic. It is a bit sour, but that doesn’t last for too long. Though it is sugary to the point of being cloying, the palate is somehow full and pleasant. Woody and herbal hops make an effort to balance it out.

+Felix Speciaal Oudenaards

4.0 (4-9-8-3-16)