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Belgian red ale a feast of flavors

Vichtenaar is more proof that Belgium is, indeed, the Disneyland of beer.

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Vichtenaar Flemish Ale

It is a style known as a Flemish, or Flanders, red ale, originating in the northern Belgium region that is primarily Dutch speaking. The style is very different from lambic, with none of the earthiness or mustiness that can be part of that style.

Vichtenaar is sweet, sour, winey, oakey and fruity all at once, with the flavors battling for supremacy, but no clear winner emerging.

The beer is matured in French oaken liquor casks, some more than 80 years old, for at least eight months, a long time for a beer with an alcohol content of only 5.1 percent. I doubt if most American microbreweries age their 10-percent barleywines that long.

It pours with a dark ruby color and some pink lacing from the head hangs on the sides of the glass. There are strong aromas of port, vanilla and fruit. The first taste brings to mind a cherry beer, but I later found out no fruit or artificial flavors are used in it. Neat trick, that. The beer seems sweet at first, but then an acidic sourness follows the sweetness, balancing the brew.

Vichtenaar has medium carbonation and a good mouthfeel - not thin at all. Amazingly, this is not even Verhaeghe’s best beer - Duchesse De Bourgogne is aged 18 months in oak casks before being mixed with eight-month-old beer. It’s darker and even more smooth than Vichtenaar, with more toffee-chocolate tones. The brewery also produces Echte Kriekenbier, which does use cherries. The latter beer I have not been able to find yet.

Your best bet for finding Vichtenaar and Duchesse De Bourgogne is to locate a liquor store that carries a good selection of Belgian ales.

Beer Man sez: Vichtenaar is a feast for the senses.

Vichtenaar was purchased at Flanagan’s Stop & Shop in Appleton. Also, a heads up that the Fox River Brewing Co. brewpubs in Appleton and Oshkosh have a new Peaches golden ale beer available, and a new batch of Foxtoberfest is scheduled to be on tap the first week of September.

Vichtenaar Flemish Ale
Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Vichte, Belgium

Postcrescent - 31 August 2006
 
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