The American craft beer explosion of the last few years came from roots that were planted decades ago by breweries like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Anchor. I often find myself referring to beers like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Anchor Old Foghorn as classics but there seniority pales in comparison—pun intended—to some of their overseas relatives. Take a brewery like Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V. for example, it started producing beer in 1836. Yes, you read that right, they have been making beer for 180 years. That definitely puts things into perspective.
Unlike most breweries Rodenbach brews one beer, a Flanders style brown/red ale. It blends different final products out of different ages of the single ale but it all starts out as the same base beer.
- Rodenbach Original — 75 percent fresh beer, 25 percent aged in oak cask
- Rodenbach Grand Cru — 33 percent fresh beer, 67 percent aged beer
- Rodenbach Vintage — all aged beer
Grand Cru has been my personal favorite offering from Rodenbach over the years and was referred to by the great beer journalist Michael Jackson as “The most refreshing beer in the world.” He also referred to it as the “The most food friendly beer in the world.” Granted when those comments were made there wasn’t nearly the competition there is now for that lofty title but it is still very high praise.
I have been waiting all week to open this beer and it is finally review time. I crack open the 12-ounce bottle and fill my Teku with the murky brown liquid. I get the reddish highlights when I hold it to the light but overall it is much more brown then red. There is an khaki-colored head that dissipates into a solid halo that sticks around for quite a while. As I bury my nose into the glass I am met with the familiar smell of sour cherries, a musty funkiness, malty sweetness, vinegar and hints of oak and leather. The musty smell and the sour cherries are the most noticeable characteristics but nothing is too overpowering and it smells delicious.
My first sip of the beer and my mouth immediately starts watering. It is a perfect balance between the tart aged beer with just enough of the sweeter young beer to create a fantastic final product. I get the cherry notes along with hints of plums and cranberries followed by a bit of malty sweetness towards the end of the sip. The level of acidity is just enough to be enjoyable but not sour enough to become a challenge to drink and the acetic vinegar character is there but only in complimentary amounts that add a level of complexity to the brew. As I work my way through the beer my mouth is still watering with every sip and I quickly realize how drinkable this beer is as I finish the beer in mere minutes.