Rodenbach is the famous West Flemish producer of red/brown beers renowned for their sweet/tart flavor. To obtain this unique profile, this style of beer is made from a blend of beers of various ages that have been conditioning and souring in large oak vessels known as Foeders. This word is becoming more and more familiar to American craft beer enthusiasts as many experimental craft brewers install foeders to begin their own souring projects.
The key to consistency and depth of flavor comes in the volume of available different stocks. Each foeder has its own microclimate of bacteria and yeast and will create beer that tastes quite different from the one standing next to it. The more foeders you have, the more flavors you can blend and better choices you can make in creating your final product. This is an area where some craft brewers are playing a somewhat dangerous game. With some of the smaller ones only having 1 or 2 foeders of stock, they have to hope that they can catch the liquid at the right phase or that the results will be “complete” enough in its complexity to make a viable product.
Rodenbach doesn’t have this issue. With nearly 300 massive foeders available to them, there’s no shortage of good beer to choose from. If one foeder is off, they can let it sit for a while and keep going until it’s ready. However, every now and then you get a foeder whose contents are nearly perfect. That’s what the Rodenbach Vintage program is about. It celebrates those instances when the beer from a single foeder is worth of its own release. This years vintage, 2013, celebrates foeder no. 149. This foeder is so consistent in its performance that it has even earned itself a nickname: The Sire.
Appearance: Hazy ruby/brown, tan head, good retention.
Aroma: Chocolate, balsamic vinegar notes, cherries, currants, caramel, tomato, spicy.
Taste: Chocolate, balsamic, cherries, currants, spicy.
Overall Impression: 2013 is a repeat of the balance of 2012 except that it’s assertively tarter than its predecessor. With long finish, the complex sweet/tart flavors come out fully to create a fantastic interplay of flavors. In some of the more entry red/browns the sweet/tart are often a bit more “separated” or jarring in their execution. In the Vintage 2013, it’s elegance and balance and harmony. Rodenbach and Rudi Ghequire are still on top of their game. Pick this one up while you can!
Availability: Highly limited at better beer stores, imported by Latis Imports.
You can read more about this classic Flemish Red maker, including reviews and my tour of their brewery, at my page dedicated to Rodenbach.
I have never had a beer from this brewery that was not amazing. They know their stuff. Regular batches and vintage batches.