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Beer Review #269 Duchesse De Bourgogne

02-12-03I’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…)

Beer Review #33 Ommegang Abbey Ale

11-08-02I thought I was out of my Belgian kick that I was on over the summer, but I found another reason to continue. Ommegang Abbey Ale is a Belgian Dubbel from Brewery Ommegang out of Cooperstown, NY. I saw two options of bottling for this beer, a four-pack or a 750 ml corked bottle. I opted to go for the four-pack as it was a better buy and I didn’t have to drink it all at once.

I allowed the beer to warm up at cellar temperatures as it takes on a different feel when it is colder. The cold attempt I made I didn’t get much aroma, but a lot of sourness. Once I allowed it to warm on my next beer, I had a much better tasting beer. It pours a deep ruby color with a thick light brown head. The head on the beer is made entirely of tiny bubble (high carbonation) and a thin layer of head lasted through the entire drink. The Abbey Ale is pretty clear with some haze from the yeast and a few groups of things in suspension, as common with most Belgian beers.

11-08-03The nose was very fruity. I think the smell that stood out the most was a grape to sour grape smell. The yeast was also heavy on the nose with some hints of malt. No hops were detectable. On my first sip I was hit with the malt on the front, followed by a sourness, and then the Belgian yeast bite. There was a grapy aftertaste. As I kept drinking some bitter chocolate notes came though as well. The Belgian yeast had a slightly different twang than a normal Belgian yeast strain, it was much more sour. Most of the time you get a spiciness from Belgian yeast, there was some, but not as pronounced as other Belgian beers I have had.

The mouthfeel was medium and the high carbonation was wonderful. I really enjoyed drinking this beer. It is a perfect beer to drink slowly during a long period of time. As the beer warms to room temperature a host of new notes come out and make it more and more interesting. Ommegang Abbey Ale comes in a 8.5% which is on the higher end of ABV for Belgain Dubbels.

There were a few interesting notes on the back of the bottle as well. It says, “Part of the Duvel family of fine ales.” Brewery Ommegang was named after Belgium’s oldest medieval festival. This beer is also cellared at the brewery. If you like Belgian beers give this one a try, you will not be disappointed. It is wonderfully flavorful and complex. It really was a treat of a beer to drink. (more…)