The pick: Rodenbach Caractere Rouge, a fruit beer for the ages.
Probably because they’re so refreshing, sours and fruit beers are a trend with seriously long legs. Have you ever noticed, though, that, with some of the new sours, you can only handle one? It’s a problem. Not one, however, that you’re likely to experience after your first Rodenbach—a perfectly balanced beer with plenty of sweet and mellow flavours to punch down the sharp acidity.
Backstory: Before every craft brewery in Canada had a sour beer, those of us with a taste for the tart had to resort to imports—largely from Belgium, which is full of old breweries that have been making this style of fruity beer for centuries. One such is Rodenbach (est. 1821 in western Flanders), and, unsurprisingly, after nearly 200 years, the brewers there have got the formula for a highly-drinkable, fruit beer down pat. It’s a Flemish red ale, aged in oak, then macerated for an additional six months with cherries, cranberries and raspberries. Rodenbach expressions typically come to Canada seasonally—in time for the early summer—as in, right now.
Why you’ll like it: Rodenbach Caractere Rouge has plenty of rich, berry flavour, but, as a result of over two years of barrel-ageing, it has a lot more caramel and vanilla flavour present, which rounds out the sharpness sometimes found in sour fruit beers. It’s got a really rich and complex flavour profile, veering into fruit compote territory, with a touch of baking spice. Serve at about 5-8 degrees Celsius, in something shaped like a red wine glass, to let the fruit aroma fill the room. Perfect pairing: A groaning cheese board and plenty of crusty bread.
Best of all, at under $10, Rodenbach isn’t even terribly expensive. Sadly, though, it’s affordability guarantees they’ll be snapped up quickly by people who wait for it all year long. If you miss the brief Rodenbach window, look for a barrel-aged sour from your local craft brewer. We’re getting better and better at emulating the Belgians here in Canada.