Yesterday I was at the Charleston Beer Exchange scouring the shelves, looking at all the beer I haven’t tried yet. It’s at those moments when you realize that beer really is a life’s work. There is so much beer out there, and even after trying everything I can get my hands on for several years, I’m still just getting below the surface.
When I’m in a store such as the CBX, I can’t leave without trying something new, so I asked Scott Shor, one of the owners of that fine establishment, for a recommendation. Earlier, we were talking about Belgian sour beer. It’s Scott’s new obsession and now it’s all he craves when he gets home at night.
Sour beer is one genre I have not explored much of. Its funky, sour, acidic quality hasn’t quite endeared itself to my tongue yet. It is similar to how I was with hops a few years ago before I acquired the taste, and now I can’t get enough. I think with enough time, I will also enjoy the sours.
Scott recommended the Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouweru Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. It doesn’t have an over-the-top sour or funky character, so it is accessible to those not accustomed to the style, yet it is still an excellent representation of the style.
I bought a bottle and brought it home to have with dinner. I have learned that when trying a new beer or style that you aren’t sure about, pair it with a complimentary food to be safe. Often, really flavorful beer can be very intense on its own, but if you drink it with a meal, the food often reels the beer in and makes for a better experience.
The Duchesse Reviewed
The Duchesse had a beautiful and unique reddish-yellow color. It looked like liquid topaz. The aroma was sweet and malty with a touch of vinegar. It wasn’t an overpowering vinegar smell, and it wasn’t too funky like the barnyard aroma that some types of sour beer have.
The flavor was sweet and sour. There was a lot of caramel malt and a touch of vinegar. There was also a distinct ripe fruit character, which is indicative of a lot of Belgian ales. I tasted prunes and raisins. The finish was moderately acidic.
The meal we paired with the beer was an excellent complement. We had grilled chicken on a garden salad. The chicken was seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The salad was made up of green and bib lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado, craisins and pine nuts. I chose balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
The craisins and vinaigrette dressing matched up well with the ripe fruit and acidic character of the beer. The chicken and avocado then provided a little fattiness to the dish that help cut the acidity of the beer. It all came together very well.
Overall, I thought the Duchesse was excellent. I’m not to the point with sour beer where I feel a craving for it, nor would I just order one at a bar. However, with the right meal to accompany it, I can totally see the appeal when you are looking for something unique and complex to bring something different to the table.