A little over a year ago at the 2006 PIB, I discovered Brouwerij Verhaeghe's remarkable Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flemish red. This is one my favorite styles, and Rodenbach Grand Cru would make my top ten no matter what mood I was in. The Duchesse is almost a different class of Flemish red--the sourness is subsumed by a sultry chocolatey richness. Yet it is dry and more tart than sour. Yet it is also creamy and rich. The impression is of an ale with more in common with wine than beer. (Flemish reds aren't known as the "burgundies" of the beer world for nothing.) It attains this complexity by long aging--18 months in an oak cask before being blended with an 8-month-old batch at bottling.
When I tried it at PIB, one of the friends I was with had drawn a firm line: she didn't like beer. It was the "beery" quality that got her. With PIB I made some headway--we got her to a kriek early (not "beery," but you don't need me to tell you that), and she was muscling through some dark ales. But then came the Duchesse, which she actively enjoyed.
When someone doesn't like beer, and you find a beer she can tolerate, generally it's a bad beer everyone else hates. But not so with the Duchesse. It was passed around to high acclaim from the Belgian-lovers to the Belgian-haters, to the NW hop-monster lovers. I wondered then if I had found the universal beer.
I recently discovered that you can get the Duchesse in a four-pack at Belmont Station (for $13--which means it's priced like a wine!). I brought some home and we tried it at a barbeque recently and I was again reminded of how popular it is. (That's another thing; it's not a beer that is so inoffensive everyone can drink it--everyone seems to rave about it.)
I didn't think such a thing was possible, and I may well find someone who doesn't like it. But if you're trying to share your love of beer with someone who adamently (and honestly) hates beer, give the Duchesse a try.
[Update: cool article here that describes the history of the beer and it's inspiration, the Duchesse. It describes the blending somewhat differently, too.]
PHOTO: Lau (a fan)