Beer Man is a weekly profile of beers from across the country and around the world.
This week: Rodenbach Vintage 2015
Brouwerij Rodenbach, Roeselare, Belgium
Rodenbach’s Vintage 2015 ale is a more refined version of its regular Flemish red ale, which itself is an excellent beer.
The Vintage is aged two years in oak casks, called foeders, that between the aging and oak conditioning combine to provide better blending of flavors and an overall smoother brew (not that the regular red ale is any slouch).
Although called a red ale, the beer is actually more brown in color, but does have bright red highlights when held to the light.
As with many red ales from Belgium, there were a lot of different and pleasurable flavors in the mix. There was fruit, vanilla, oak, caramel and a slight sourness that was more of a fruity apple-cherry tartness than vinegary.
The fruit aspects and slight tartness define the term “lip smacking.” I love how the tart fruit notes hit the tongue at first, then a little caramel sweetness appeared to soften that, then a dry finish cleansed the palate to prepare you for the next sip.
Since the oak barrels are not charred, as is done for bourbon, the oak character did not have any burnt character, but gave off nice vanilla and wood flavors.
The cherry flavor was prominent, although the ale does not contain any actual cherries. That is one of the wonders of master brewers using their expertise to manipulate malts and yeast to achieve the flavor profiles they want.
I think the main difference between the 7% ABV Vintage and regular Rodenbach is that the caramel malt was more noticeable in the Vintage, though by no means prominent, and the oak flavor came out more without being overly woody.
Rodenbach, which has always produced respected beers, is really on a roll this year after releasing its Alexander and Fruitage beers.
Many beers are available only regionally. Check the brewer's website, which often contains information on product availability by mail. Contact Todd Haefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous Beer Man columns, click here.