Posted by The Beerded Lady on:
The Flanders Red Ale might be one of the most overlooked styles of beer out there. But turn over that rock, and you will see that not only is it populated with strange microorganisms (as they are not fermented with yeast), but also a fantastic community of aromas and flavors. Because of the fermentation process, and because they are typically aged in oak casks, Flanders Red Ales are a delightfully smooth, never hoppy, sweet and sour beer. The presence of bacteria (I promise they are good for you) results in the beer's sourness quotient, and the sweet, fruitiness comes from the aging process and the blendng of young and old batches.
There are a few sweet and sour ales out there, and it will be up to you to find the one that is the perfect blend of flavors for your palate. My most recent foray included this Flemish "Zoetzuur" from Proefbrouwerij Lochristi, Belgium. Relatively tame on the sour end of the spectrum, the Zoetzuur features delightful cherry notes and a nice sparkle to the carbonation. A bit darker than most reds, it has nicely mellowed through the aging process. It perhaps does not quite match the majesty that is the Duchesse de Bourgogne--the benchmark of the Flanders Red style. Rich and perfectly balanced, the Duchesse offers the most complex array of flavors.
Also, be on the lookout for the Monk's Cafe, which is significantly lighter in color and richness, with its sourness well in advance of its fruitiness. Finally, if you are feeling adventurous, it is well worth going out of your way in search of the HaandBakk by HaandBryggerit of Norway. The first wild yeast-fermented beer brewed in Norway for over 100 years, this one is exceptionally sour and exceptionally good.