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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Duchesse de Bourgogne - the Universal Beer?

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)


  1. That looks like a wonderful beer to try Jeff. I'm impressed that your non-beer enjoying friend liked it. I know too many people who's preconcpetions about beer won't (or can't) let them try any.

  2. Well, You found someone who doesn't like it! I hate, hate, hate, this beer! I respect it, it definitely is a complex brew, but I find it akin to drinking straight balsamic vinegar. I like an intentionally sour beer, I don't care for vinegary ones. Flanders reds are often called sour beers but I really think the term is a misnomer. Sour and vinegar are distinctly different tastes. Cantillon Fou Foune is a sour beer. Fantome Saison is a sour beer. Duchess and Rodenbach sport more of a vinegar taste. I don't generally like the flanders style much but I can drink something like Rodenbach which uses a 25% blend of barrel aged old ale, as opposed to 50% for the Duchess. The 50% is just too much for my palette.