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Beer #14 – January 14, 2010: Ichtegem’s Grand Cru

January 14, 2010

Beer: Ichtegem’s Grand Cru

Brewery: Brouwerij Strubbe, Ichtegem, Belgium

Style: Flanders Red Ale

Serving Type: Bottle

Price: Unknown – part of a mixed gift pack

Availability: Year-round

Glassware: Goblet

Strength: 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume)

Drinkability: This is a tart, somewhat sour, and complex beer.  Belgian sour ales, which include Flanders Red, Oud Bruin, and Gueuze, are an acquired taste to many.  However, others find their taste intriguing at first sip.

Tasting Notes

Appearance: The color is not quite as red as one would imagine with a name like “Flanders Red”.  It is actually a deep but clear brown with a reddish tinge, and has a frothy tan head that dissipates relatively quickly.

Aroma: Tart, slightly sour, bing cherry, medicinal, red wine vinegar

Mouthfeel: Moderately high carbonation lends body to this relatively thin beer.

Taste: The initial cherry-juice sweetness quickly transforms into a tart, sour cherry, with acidic notes of balsamic and red wine vinegar, and hints of oak.  A sour bitterness of walnut-shell and lemon peel leads into a drying finish with a mouth-puckering tang.

Pairing: I was having a hard time with this one, so I turned to the “Bible” of beer & food pairings, The Brewmaster’s Table by Garrett Oliver.  He suggests eggy dishes such as a goat-cheese omelet, where the acidity contrasts the creaminess.  Also various sweet shellfish (shrimp, crab, mussels) pair nicely, where the sourness of the beer has a similar effect as a squeeze of lemon.

Trivia: The signature sour and tart flavors in a Flanders Red come from bacterial strains and wild yeasts.  Most modern brewers do everything they can to keep a clean and sanitized environment to avoid these so-called contaminants in their beers.  However, in this case, these wild “bugs” are just what is needed to give the desired effect.  Before brewers understood how yeast transformed sweet wort into beer, or even understood what yeast was, they left their fermentation tanks wide open to allow the wind and the “hand of God” to create this bubbly and alcoholic beverage.

Today, to create Flanders Red, brewers use unlined oak barrels that harbor these wild yeasts to ferment the beer.  Some of the beer ages for a year or more, resulting in an almost undrinkable sour brew.  This “old” beer is then blended with sweeter, younger beer (aged for a month or so) to create the signature sweet & sour Flanders Red.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jarhett permalink
    January 15, 2010 3:00 pm

    I have always wanted to try a Belgian sour. It does sound like a good pairing with shellfish.

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  1. Beer #16 – January 16, 2010: Petrus Aged Pale « A Year of Beer

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