Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brouwerij Verhaeghe - Duchess De Bourgogne

First of all, can we call just agree on calling this beer "The Dutchess"?  There is no way that I am going to be able to work out both the brewery name AND whatever the heck she is the Dutchess of (if you know and feel like you can spell it phonetically or using the IPA phonetic alphabet, please be my guest and leave it in the comments).

The Mona Lisa of the beer world.

Second order of business, since Pinty's untimely demise (see last post for details), I have upgraded in the world of glassware.  Please see pictures later on in this article.

Finally, this bottle of beer was actually given to me.  I was talking to a manager named Steve at my local Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits and never gave him the faintest idea that I was a blogger nor ever would have imagined asking for a free bottle.  Ever.  As we discussed craft beer rather in depth, he ended up wrapping up a bottle and telling me that I had to try it.  This is that bottle.  Hy-Vee should be proud (as should any local business) to have employees truly embracing, endorsing, and passionate about their products.  This is actually the first bottle of beer given to me by any source and I am really looking forward to giving this a thorough review.  Let's pour!

Picture is my own.  Bottle art image used without permission for educational uses only.
Aroma 10/12
The overall aroma is sour.  While not discouraging its components are a bit difficult to place.  It does not rely on the common citrus and berries for its tartness, but instead seems to draw it from fermented green apples, plums, and fresh, sour cherries.  The scent also seems to have a dry tartness to it not completely unlike champagne.  Behind these sour notes are a molasses scent (more sugary than would allow me to call it caramel) and a moderately toasted malt.

Appearance 3/3
The appearance would have one believe that the tart aroma is yielded solely from cherries.  The beer is a beautiful shimmering copper, nearly the color of stained cherry wood.  I recommend holding this beer to the light.  It yields a palette full of red shades and it quite striking.  The head is beige, generous in size, and clings well to my glass.  Quite a feat if this beer is as tart (therefore acidic) as its aroma suggests.

Picture is my own.
Flavor 19/20
The sour flavor is the star of this show and wastes no time taking center stage.  It is a delicious blend primarily consisting of sour cherries, but also featuring the plums and sour apples from the aroma.  Delicious!  This powerhouse backbone, when held in the mouth even yields some bitter notes, as if one bit just into the core of one of the sour apples.  The finish is what truly ascended this beer into a higher category of respect.  For just a moment, a mere flash across the palate, there is a warm, sweet sensation of toffee/butterscotch/vanilla on the sides of the tongue.  Not only is the taste delicious in itself, but it is a perfect compliment to this bouquet of fruits.  At first it was so brief, I thought I might be mistake, but even halfway through the first pour this "flash" is still detectable (and fantastic).  Its origins are presumably from the malt, but it is not the norm for this reviewer to find a lot of malt flavors present in the finish, as it is usually the place to showcase more bitter notes in the beer.  The aftertaste is less impressive, but it has a tough act to follow.  It gently fades away the tart with a noticeable level of bitter from the backbone, without completely erasing the tart.  As a sweeter beer, it is no surprise that the aftertaste is rather clean.

Mouthfeel 5/5
The effervesence of this beer is light and crisp, which works extremely well with the brew since I would describe it in the same way.  Light in body, ample in carbonation, with no warmth, but incredibly smooth.

Overall Impression 10/10
One of the best fruit based beers available.  The flavor is fantastic and were it more rounded, could be considered wine-like without many thoughts to the contrary.  Not to say that this beer possesses a great deal of warmth or suggests tannins, but the fruit bouquet is excellent.  Its color, head, and mouthfeel are also great strengths.  The buttery, sugary flavor in the finish is a masterstroke.

Total 47/50
This bottle is easily one of the top fruit-based beers in the market.  It easily competes with New Glarus' "Wisconsin Belgian Red," and that is much easier said than done.  I give the comparison so that you will instantly know that it is a world-class example of the style.  It seldom comes this refined and this drinkable (most are too sweet for my taste, but I digress).  Find this.  Buy it.  If you're feeling nice, you can let your wife/significant other try some, just don't be surprised when she tries to steal the bottle.  This is a fantastic Belgian brew and with recommendations like this, you can bet I'll be back to see Steve at Hy-Vee in no time.

Side note: This bottle has an "expiration date" imprinted on its cork.  How awesome is that?  I hope other breweries pick up on that!
Great idea!

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