Rodenbach Flanders Red Ale

One of the fun things about beer is the history that goes along with it, which includes the Bavarian Purity Laws, Trappist Monks, and even ancient cruciform tablets from Mesopotamia. There is a certain novelty to drinking something that you know was enjoyed hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

Just the other day I sampled a beer that has stood the test of time without sacrificing its character or integrity. The beer in question is the Rodenbach, a Flanders Red Ale. Perhaps my great-great-great-great-grandfather was a fan back in the 1820s in Belgium? Until I get my “Back to the Future” DeLorean, I guess we’ll never know.

Rodenbach Original is the titular beer of the Rodenbach Brewery. Flanders Red Ales like this are very unique in that they are kind of the missing link between your average ale and a lambic. It isn’t sweet enough to be taken with a lump of ice cream, as I’ve seen done with framboise lambics, but it is still erring close into their territory. They are a type of sour made with our old friend Lactobacillus, aged for over a year in oak casks, and flavored with a special red malt. As with other Flanders Reds, the bottle is a blend of aged and newer brews. The alcohol by volume is only about five percent, which is handy considering how easy this ale is to drink.   At about $10 a bottle, you can stand to get a couple.

I popped the cork on this bottle and noticed the carbonation was rather low, maybe an effect of the bottle conditioning. Not a fault though, because I really do prefer under, to over carbonation. It pours a deep, brown-black with a bit of a red tinge.

There was a strong scent coming off of it, kind of farmhouse funk and tart cherries. The smell was reminiscent, (and I don’t mean to be unappetizing), of old sour candy. It wasn’t off putting, because what can you expect from a sour? The flavor was worlds better than anything in Grandma’s candy dish.

I was correct in thinking it was halfway to a lambic. There was a lot of tart cherry and raspberry, with good levels of a kind of candied malty flavor.  However, I may have been thinking too one-dimensionally. It may be a bit between a lambic and a regular ale, but it is definitely drifting into wine territory. Rodenbach has that quality of a kind of bitter tannin, and any bitterness from the hops is almost non-existent. It also has a smooth, full bodied feel to it. Extremely enjoyable, and I can see why it has stuck around for so long.

Whether I’m getting off of work in 1820s Belgium, looking for a good drink to write about in 2012, or fighting the Space-Tyrannosaurus invasion in 2044, Rodenbach Classic is sure to be a treat.


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