Friday, May 23, 2008

MONK’S CAFÉ FLEMISH SOUR ALE - THE GATEWAY BEER

It didn’t happen the first time I had DUCHESSE DE BOURGOGNE. It didn’t even happen the first time I tried the sour beer lineup from RUSSIAN RIVER. But I knew it was gonna happen – there was going to be that one sour ale that was going to knock me for a loop and make me a full-on believer in their power. That beer, my friends, is MONK’S CAFÉ FLEMISH SOUR ALE. Oh, my friends who’d had it told me what would happen. They said this was one of the best beers going, and they were right. Brewed for Philadelphia’s renown Belgian beer bar MONK’S CAFÉ by the VAN STEENBERGE BREWERY just outside of Ghent, Belgium, FLEMISH SOUR ALE just coats the tongue in puckering, mouth-pleasing smoothness. It is a dark amber beer that I’d have to say is fairly mild overall in its sourness, but it is miles away from the layman's beer. It's incredibly delicious and I felt like a full-on gourmand while ingesting it.

Here’s something I found about the beer on the internet, penned by Jason & Todd Almstrom, the fellas behind Beer Advocate.com and the magazine:

Philadelphia is home to Monk's Café, one of America's top havens for Belgian beer lovers. The emporium is co-operated by Tom Peters and Fergus Carey, whose love for Belgian beer and food runs deep. How deep? So deep that Peters had a beer commissioned by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, the same brewery that brings us Gulden Draak and Piraat. From our understanding, Monk's Café Flemish Sour Red Ale is actually Van Steenberge's Bios Vlaamse Bourgogne ("Flemish Burgundy") -- Tom convinced them to bottle it under a private label. Despite all of the "red" references, it's actually an Oud Bruin, a style of ale that hails from the Flanders region of Belgium…… Leathery, with deep ruby hues. A creamy, beige, two-finger head that laces, retains and sticks well. Sour in the nose and quite vinous, with mildly fruity undertones of lime rinds and funky phenols. The puckering tartness -- it really gets your saliva glands going -- cuts through with an acidic smack that's akin to lemon-lime juice with a salty edge. Dry, ultra-crisp and thin-bodied. A big oak note in the center amplifies the tartness and brings with it a woody edge. Suggestions of bitter cherries and raisins, even though there's no fruit in the beer. Slightly medicinal and metallic as the beer warms. No real sweetness or maltiness to speak of -- it's all about the sour. Finish is dry and surprisingly clean.

I’d agree with that, although I’d say it all with at least three or four times as much enthusiasm. This is one of my favorite beers right now, and folks, it’s being imported into America. It’s fantastic. 10/10.

6 comments:

Steve said...

I also thought that was a really tasty Flemish sour. I like that glass in the picture too... looks like the same style as a Hoegaarden glass. Need to get me one of those.

Eric said...

Your post was super-timely.. I was visiting my brother in Philly this past weekend - my first time since an 8th grade field trip in the 80's - and had to check out Monk's Cafe.. and this ale, in particular, after your effusive review. While this style of beer isn't up my alley (I've had a few examples over the years; I do *want* to like it), I enjoyed giving it a go, given that it's placed in such high regard..

It still tasted too much like balsamic vinegar to me (which some people love, but I'm not one of them); but we'll see how my tastebuds evolve the next time I've over that way. ;) By the way, you can also get this beer at Grace Tavern, a number of blocks west (near S. 23rd) and slightly south of Monk's Cafe.

seanrude said...

Just went on a bike ride around Philly, and before we jumped in our car, we stopped at Monk's to try this. I loved it. It was refreshing after the bike ride. My friend was not as impressed.

Andrew said...

The Flemish Sour at Monk's is one of my favorite beers. I live in WI so I can only get it when I travel to Philadelphia...in fact I'm really craving it now! I would love to find a recipe for this...

jere said...

I just had this beer at BJ's in cupertino ca. Wow. This tastes so good. Be sure you eat though, 3/4 of the way through it got me. This potent stuff served on tap in a 10 oz. tulip glass smells as good as it tastes. This is the best beer yet this year. I'm taking my friends back with me to enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I tried this at the new Morlein Restaurant/Bar in Cincinnati, Oh. It was featured as a "guest on-tap" choice.

I tried a sample of Duchesse de Bourgogne first. It was okay but a bit too balsamic vinegary for me.

Then I tried a glass of this Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Ale. It took me two tastes to get a real feel for it - then I loved it. I just stopped at my local liquor store and they are seeing if they can get it for me.

A real gem!