I’m going to warn you, I’m on a Belgian beer kick right now. The next several reviews are going to be Belgian or Belgian inspired beers. Today’s beer is fondly called “The Duchesse” by many. I was first introduced to it when I lived in Texas. The homebrew club would pay someone to make the long trek to cultured areas and get a case of this beer. At $20 bucks a 750 ml bottle, plus gas, it was an expensive treat. Duchesse De Bourgogne is brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe. Try to say that a few times. The bottle says, “Belgian top-fermented reddish-brown ale, a blend of 8 and 18 months old beer following the careful maturation in oak casks.”
The Duchesse pours a nice clean brown color. It has a slightly off-white head that quickly fades. Oddly, as the head fades, large bubble begin to cling to the glass where the beer is. I thought it was because of a dirty glass at first, but I tried a second glass that I had just cleaned and it did the same thing. Odd. The nose has some nice woody smells along with some slight sweetness. The largest aroma coming from the glass is a nice sour note.
On the front end you get a bit of sweetness which is quickly followed by a solid sour flavor. It tasted like sour grapes or sour candy. The woody notes from the nose also follow through to the flavor and add a great level of complexity to the beer. As the beer warms the oak flavors become a bit stronger but they do not throw anything out of balance. This beer is pretty light-handed when it comes to all of the flavors. The sweetness, sourness, and oakiness(?) are all there, but they don’t scream, but rather say mellow.
I can see why people enjoy this beer. The has a great level come complexity while remaining on the lighter end of flavor. I’ve had beers that are much more sour and it often throws them out of balance. I think the real magic of this beer is that it achieves a great complexity without overdoing it on any one particular thing. The balance is fantastic. And at 6% you can have a few of these if you have the cash. My local beer store sells the 750 ml and 11.2 oz bottles in four packs. I generally opt for the four pack. (more…)