Sour ales with their funky aromas and tart apple flavors are the up-and-coming thing with brewers here in the US. But of course in Belgium, they're old news. Which really only means they've had a few more centuries to get it right. In the pantheon of sour beers, Rodenbach is a classic.
Beer Details: Rodenbach from Brouwerij Rodenbach (Flemish sour ale aged in oak, 5.2% ABV)
Appearance: This pours a fairly murky reddish-brown color with a clingy layer of toast-colored foam.
Aroma: You'll know this is a sour ale from first whiff! Pungent aromas of fermenting apples, tart cranberries, and sour candy fill the air even while you're still pouring.
Taste: This doesn't taste like a beer in any way you'd normally expect. It's more like a very complex cider sweetened with brown sugar. There's a big punch of sweet-tart flavor upfront that quickly fades, leaving behind a whisper of sour apple on the tongue.
It's definitely oak-y with some warming vanilla notes, but this isn't as forward as we've come to expect from barrel-aged beers in the US. For this beer, the more subtle flavor works well. The oak smooths the spicy notes and compliments the sour fruit flavors.
This is a good sour beer to try if you've never had one before and are curious. It's sour, but not in the mouth-puckering sense. If you like lambics, I think Rodenbach would be an easy transition.
Food Pairings: Both crisp and sweet, this is a good brew for the mercurial weather of spring. Serve it with a dinner of roast chicken and vegetables with crusty baguette on the side.
Have you tried this beer?
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(Image: Emma Christensen)