A while ago, in my review of the truly awful ‘Elken Artois‘, I questioned the existence of other oak aged beers. What I meant to write was the existence of any other oak aged lagers. Belgium has a great tradition of producing rich oak-aged ales, such as the wonderful Rodenbach Grand Cru.
I first encountered Duchesse de Bourgogne (pronounced Dooshess de Burgoyne) on draught about seven years ago at the Great British Beer Festival, at that time my mate Jon and I voted it our favourite beer of the show! I confess it had quite slipped my mind (life does that to you sometimes) until I spotted it in a beer shop on my recent visit to Brussels. I bought a bottle to sample in controlled conditions at home, then found it the the Cafe Delirium bar to enjoy in situ. And enjoy it I did.
The beer itself is a traditional Belgian Red Ale, brewed in the Flanders town of Vichte to around 6.2% ABV. It’s double fermented and then aged in oak for around 18 months. The finished article is a blend of older and newer brews to provide a consistent flavour – much like the ‘gueze’ lambic beers of Belgium. The colour is a rich, dark garnet, with a trace of head; and the nose is slightly sour, again almost Lambic. We’re talking hints of Balsamic Vinegar – you get the drift – this is not a glass of the usual.
A few beer reviews ago, I described Thomas Hardy’s ale as what beers would be like when they grow up. Having become re-acquainted with this particular Duchess, THIS is what beers should aspire to! You’d want to spend an evening in the company of this Duchess, she’d be lively and stimulating company, in comparison ‘Thomas Hardy’ – older and opinionated… not someone you would want to spend too much time with.
And for information, the label depicts Mary of Burgundy, who died in the 15th century, she was much loved by her subjects (by all accounts) and died aged 25 while out falconning. The photo, taken at Cafe Delirium, also features the Cafe’s draught beer list – around 25 beers on draught at any time!
Four stars – a wonderful, wonderful beer.
Check out more of Bob the Brit’s other thoughts at Mallorn.net!