Monday, October 09, 2006


So there I was at the Toronado Bar in San Francisco, ready to jump at the most obscure beer on the menu – just because. Feeling a little flush at the time (my Giants had just been officially eliminated from the playoffs, just as I’d known they would back on April 4th), I pulled the trigger on the most expensive pint on their board, a $6.50 DUCHESSE DE BOURGOGNE from Belgium – on tap, no less. When I was in New York City a few weeks ago I noted that every beer on the menu was that highly priced, where in California the going rate’s about $3.50-$4.50. I figured I’d “head east” mentally and spend what needed to be spent to try something weird and wild. Not knowing anything about this one, I was surprised to find a sour, fruity, raspberry-ish beer relatively high in alcohol home later I looked it up & found that it was part of a style I’d barely heard of – the FLANDERS RED ALE. How about that? Here’s how those are defined over at Beer Advocate:

A Flanders Red, are commonly referred to as the "red" beers of West Flanders. Belgian Red Beers are typically light-bodied brews with reddish-brown colors. They are infamous for their distinct sharp, fruity, sour and tart flavours which are created by special yeast strains. Very complex beers, they are produced under the age old tradition of long-term cask aging in oak, and the blending of young and old beers.

Well stow me for a lubber. If there was ever a beer outside of the barleywine that could be called an “acquired taste”, it’s this one. It’s probably not miles from a lambic, but there’s nothing sweet about it – the Duchesse De Bourgogne is all about the tart, and once you’ve gotten comfortable with how sour it is, it’s not half bad. It’s certainly full of flavor, and slides down the gullet in a pleasing manner – and honestly, it really tastes like something that had a lot of cask-conditioned care put into it. I’m going to mentally bookmark this style as one that merits further investigation, and for now I’ll give my first foray into it a solid 6/10.


beerinator said...

Mark my words: One day you will be sitting at work drooling about your next flanders style. I am as I type this. :(

It is an aquired taste, but it aquires you, not the other way around!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jay,
I had the same experience with this beer at the Toronado - thought it was interesting but a little too sour - but I bought a bottle at City Beer & what a difference! I figure the Toronado is pretty religious about cleaning their taps so I don't know what the problem was, but I highly encourage you to try it in the bottle. I nursed a glass for 45 minutes & savored every sip. Delicious.

Also, next time you're in NYC, you have to check out Bierkraft. It's a beer drinkers paradise! I shipped home 2 cases of Belgians!