Sour beers. The Irish market has certainly been slow on the uptake. So much so that sour gems from world-renowned guezeries Cantillon & Drie Fonteinen that enter the country via one of our importers aren’t stocked by many of the country’s beer bars and off licences as there’s very little demand – for shame. (the only place I know with the full range of what comes into the country is Drinkstore of Stoneybatter – but don’t snaffle them all, leave some for me).
Anyway, onto the main event: Rodenbach Vintage 2010
This beauty is a wonderful Flanders Red Ale – a style which is fermented with the wild organism Lactobacillus (wannabe science geeks – give it a Google now) to give it its wonderful acetic sour tang.
The production of this style is deeply rooted in Flemish brewing heritage and usually involves the blending of beers of different ages – ‘fresh’ ale is combined with oak-aged ale at the brewer’s discretion to get the requisite flavour profile. But, in the case of Rodenbach Vintage, what you’re getting is 100% oak barrel-aged single-year red ale goodness. No blending, no messing about, just the 2010 crop of deep ruby sour nectar in a 750ml corked and caged bottle. It even tells you the number of the barrel the beer fermented in – in case you were wondering.
Rodenbach Vintage (7% ABV) pours a deep shade of murky ruby red with a bit of pink-ish foam. What hits you straight away on the nose is a huge smack of tart cherries – it’s intense. As well as that you get sharp raspberry, a bit of leather, cyder vinegar, vinous notes, and the unmistakable hit of the oak barrel: if you haven’t had a sour ale before, this will open your eyes and blow your head right off. With the taste comes more tart cherry and raspberry character, some sugary fructose sweetness sticks to your teeth, more sour cyder vinegar notes, some slightly leathery yeast funkiness attacks your palate, and then there’s a subtle but rising hit of oak from the barrel. Bloody hell, this is wonderfully balanced. The carbonation is perfect: there’s an effervescent fizz to it that gives it body and really lifts the cherry and raspberry flavours. The acetic tartness is certainly there to kick you in the chops, but if you’re a fan of sour ales then this is on the meeker end of the mouth-puckering spectrum.
This is a top TOP piece of Belgian brewing heritage and is highly limited to boot. You’d not think twice about trading your child/spouse/granny for a bottle. Fortunately, there are a few outlets that will let you keep hold of your treasured family members and will give you a bottle in exchange for some cash (between 12 and 13 quid for 750ml is what you’ll pay). I bought mine last night in my old stomping ground Probus Wines & Spirits (Fenian Street, Dublin 2) but you can pester Beer Rep Dean on twitter (https://twitter.com/BeerPadawan) and he’ll tell you where else in the country you can pick one up. Go forth and be sour.