25 Beers of Christmas: #21

Rodenbach Grand Cru

Flanders Red

6.00% ABV

Brouwerij Rodenbach – Roeselare, Belgium


One of the toughest sells I encounter is putting a beer in the hand of a person that tells me they only drink wine.  The great thing is that, if I can get that beer in their hand, I have two perfect options, depending on whether they prefer reds or whites.  We’ll talk about the other option later, but for the red wine drinker, the perfect introduction to the world of beer beyond mass market lagers is today’s selection: Rodenbach Grand Cru.

Flanders Red Ale is a style that, much like the Trappist and abbey dubbels, tripels, and quads, is uniquely Belgian.  These are red or brown ales that are aged for up to two years in oak barrels, which contribute similar qualities to those seen in wine, such as acidity, vanilla (from the oak barrel), and tannins.  Their trademark flavors come not just from the barrel itself, but from the presence of lactobacillus, which contributes acidic sour tartness; Brettanomyces, which has a funky, sometimes musty, fruity quality; and acetobacter, which can contribute a vinegar-like bite (it’s pleasant, I promise!)  The beer is usually moderately carbonated and pours with a larger, fizzy, long-lasting head.

Side note: The Flanders Brown, which will be discussed later in this countdown, differs from the Flanders Red not in its color (necessarily), but in its method of production.  Flanders Browns, or Oud Bruins, are matured in stainless steel barrels with the yeast and bacteria added, and so lack the barrel qualities described above.

Flanders Reds are often referred to as the Burgundies of Belgium, so similar to the French red wines they tend to be, and Rodenbach tends to be considered the brewer of some of the best examples.  The Grand Cru presents exactly as described above.

The beer should be poured chilled into a chalice-like glass, though a red wine glass, snifter, or tulip will also be excellent.  Anything with at least a slightly inward-curving portion of the glass, designed to retain the aromas of the beer and present the foam stand, will work great.

Rodenbach Grand Cru, and all Flanders Reds, will pair very well with the same cheeses you might match with red wine, especially creamier ones like goat cheese, mascarpone, etc., since the beer’s carbonation and acidity will contrast with the creaminess of the cheese.  Fresh and grilled seafood, such as oysters, scallops, squid/octopus, and the quintessential Belgian dish of moules frites (mussels and fries), are all outstanding here.

All of Brouwerij Rodenbach’s primary products are Flanders Reds, including Rodenbach Classic and Rodenbach Caractere Rouge.  Rodenbach’s beers are widely available in the United States, though I am not sure if it is missing in any states.  Rodenbach Grand Cru is available in 330 ml / 11.2 oz and 750 ml bottles.

JAB - 12/5/15