Ichtegem’s Grand Cru is one of the newer beers in venerable Brouwerij Strubbe‘s lineup. Introduced in 2006, Ichtegem’s Grand Cru represents the long evolution of Strubbe’s Oud Bruin series. Through six generations, the brewery has managed to survive the tumultuous history of Western Europe’s 20th century and come out the other end poised and ready to join the ranks of Belgium’s beer revitalization and revolution. The last two generations have taken the steps to ready their brewery for the needs of a modern brewing scene. Gilbert Strubbe became a brewmaster while his brother Etienne managed the business side of things. Today, their sons are the ones in charge of Strubbe’s fate.
Marc, Gilbert’s son, manages the production at the brewery while Norbert, Etienne’s son, manages the business like his father did. The fathers and sons have worked to upgrade the breweries quality standards by modernizing their equipment and discontinuing their lemonade and water production to more fully focus on their beers. In 2008, Norbert retired turning the business over to his son and 7th generation, Stefan.
Their Grand Cru can trace its origins back to the old days of Strubbe’s brewing history. After World War I, the Strubbe family made the expensive decision to convert the brewer from high fermentation beers (ales) to lower fermentation (lagers). They started with a Bock then went even further adding the equipment they needed to make a pils. Unfortunately, the conversion didn’t ultimately lead to bigger profits. What was fortunate was the survival of their old style “Bruin Hengstenbier” which was known for its sweet-tart flavor. This ultimately became the brewery’s Oud Bruin which was released in 1982.
24 years later, the brewery released the next iteration of its Flemish Rood-Bruin: the Ichtegem’s Grand Cru. The Oud Bruin, in traditional fashion, is a blend of old beer that’s been maturing in large oak vessels blended with a sweet young beer to balance the flavor and round out the body. In the Oud Bruin’s case, it’s a blend of 18 month old beer that’s mixed with the young. Grand Cru blends 24 month old beer for that added bit of complexity and depth.
Appearance: Dark ruby, tan head, great retention.
Aroma: Cherries, chocolate, fine balsamic, figs, dates, leather, red wine.
Taste: Dried fruit, wood, cherry, cherry, green apple.
Overall Impression: Ichtegem’s is one of the finer examples of a Flemish Rood-Bruin. It’s soft, elegant, tart, and very round on the palate. It’s also one of the lesser known ones in the United States. While beers like Rodenbach Grand Cru or Duchesse de Bourgogne get the lion’s share of recommendations for the quintessential Flemish-style Red/Browns, Ichtegem’s can easily stand in their company as an equal and should be on your list of beers to seek out and try if you’re a fan of the style.
Availability: A bit limited but not rare. Look for it where you see other beers from importer B. United International.