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Ontario now offering 'World's Best Sour' beer — but is it?

Rodenbach Vintage 2016 beer.
Rodenbach Vintage 2016 beer.

Fans of sour or tart beers rejoice, the LCBO has a real doozy that should get your taste buds tingling.

Straight from the brewers at Browerij Rodenbach in Belgium comes a special little offering of a Flemish Red Ale that has been aged for two years in oak casks before being bottled and sent to Ontario stores for beer fans to sample.

Rodenbach Vintage 2018 is a hazy, complex, tart and bubbly beer that has turned heads and won a pile of awards. It won World’s Best Sour Beer at the World Beer Cup Awards in 2018 in Nashville, Tenn. Previous vintages of the brew have also won Gold at the World Beer Cup in 2018, 2016 and 2015.

There’s no debating that when it comes to buzz, this beer is really humming.

But, what is it exactly? A Flemish Red Ale is a farmhouse beer that originated in West Flanders, Belgium. Being a brew that originated on a farm, there typically wasn’t much temperature control or sterilization employed in the early days. In fact, during the early days, there often wasn’t even the beer yeasts that many people associate with many of their favourite suds.

Flemish Ale’s typically underwent wild fermentation, which left them to ferment with wild yeasts that could come from the air, or the previous batch. They also often picked up bacteria, which gave them their unique sour or tart flavours. It was a farm after all and the beer was being made to keep the farmers and their farm hands hydrated during hot summer heat waves.

Today’s sour beers, including Flemish Reds, employ specific yeast strains and known bacterias, such Lactobacillus, which are harmless to people but impart the desired flavours and textures that sour beer lovers demand.

These types of beers aren’t for everyone. They’re not carbonated in the same way mass produced commercial ales are, which gives them more champagne-like bubbles, they are quite tart in taste and are often cloudy.

Rodenbach Vintage 2018 pours a hazy amber colour with very light off-white lacing around the top of the glass, which quickly dissipates and leaves a beverage with a very bubbly-champagne like appearance. Despite being aged in oak, there is very little oak flavours or scents in the drink. The taste punches your mouth. It is tart. Almost like licking the sour coating off of sour kids. It makes your mouth pucker. There is no hop bitterness, like what you’d get in a pale ale or an Indian pale ale (IPA). It’s just sour. The flavour is rounded out by the malty backbone in the beer, leaving a balanced finish.

The champagne like carbonation of the brew makes it more of a sipping beer that’s best for sharing, as opposed to something that you’d drink in high volumes. At a relatively high 7 per cent alcohol by volume, sharing the beer is likely wise.

As far as sour beers go, Rodenbach Vintage 2018 highlights the characteristics expected of the style admirably, which is likely why it’s been so successful on the international scene. I wouldn’t say it’s the best sour beer available today, as there are several with more complex flavours to offer. Still, at $12.75 for a bottle at the LCBO it is definitely a beer that’s worth trying and will likely impress, especially for those people who demand to try the latest in beer offerings from around the globe.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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