Having been to Belgium the last two Novembers and being a greedy person, I’ve a few (not enough) beers stashed away that I thought would benefit, or at least cope, with aging. Amongst them are some Bourgogne Des Flandres, a Flemish red brewed (at least in part) in a magnificent building in the heart of Bruges. It doesn’t seem to be as storied as Duchesse de Bourgogne or Rodenbach and I’ve never seen it around in the UK, but I’ve found it an approachable, enjoyable example of the style.
As there was still a bottle or two from a visit 16 months ago alongside most of a newer four-pack, I thought I’d do a quick and dirty vertical tasting* to see what had changed.
Both poured with a light fluffy head and a rich red-brown body. On the nose, the newer beer had more overt cherry and blackcurrant notes, whereas that had faded away slightly in the the older bottle. Apart from that, sweet malt, a fairly clean acidity and a touch of oak. In the drinking, there’s a sense of smoother carbonation in the older bottle, and a little less fruitiness, but basically, they were identical. It’s not aggressively sour or a funk bomb. There’s a fairly gentle sweet-sharp balance, tart fruit, caramel sweetness and a touch of malty bitterness at the end, leading to a slight cherry cola finish. It’s a refreshing little number.
I was slightly put out at the lack of difference between the two, but this is an approachable 5% beer and both still tasted good. Flavour stability is not a sin, even if I had idle thoughts of exciting developments on the palate. Sometimes a beer should be enjoyed for what it is. Who knew?
*Vertical tasting is where you compare the same drink at different vintages. In wine it lets you not only compare the maturation of the drink, but also the qualities of the respective vintages. With beer, the focus tends to be more on how a particular beer develops with age. While most beer deteriorates gently within a year or two, strong beers and sour beers are capable of changing, maturing and surprising you over the years. Barley wines, imperial stouts, Abbey-style beers and the spontaneously-fermented (lambic/geueze, for example) would be obvious candidates. Orval, with its touch of Brettanomyces, is a great example for trying new against one, two and three year-old bottles.