Thursday, June 21, 2018

BrewTales: Rodenbach

Enjoying a Rodenbach in Bruges, Belgium.
We all have a favorite go to beer. A beer that never fails to quench your thirst. For some that beer could be a PBR, and for other a Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. But for one of us, it's a Flanders Red Ale called Rodenbach. Here's our story.

Beer: Rodenbach Grand Cru
Style: Flanders Red Ale
Geography: Belgium. Brewed in the West Flanders region.

Backstory: If you're looking for a unique tasting beer, this is one for you. It's fermented and aged for up to two years in large oak barrels called foeders, which contain bacteria (necessary for souring) and yeast from past batches. No two batches are the same.

Our story: It was our first trip to Bruges, Belgium. We were on a scouting mission, looking for places to take 16 university students on a study abroad program we had aptly named, The Geography of Beer. If you have never been to Bruges, it needs to be on your list of places to visit/move to. Seriously.

It seemed like a good idea
On our last day in the town, we decided to rent a tandem bike to explore the city and to evaluate the experience as a possible activity for students. Like most Belgian towns, Bruges is fairly compact and easy to get around on bicycles. Admittedly, we struggled finding our rhythm, regardless of who was in the front. After several minutes, the novelty wore off, but we were stuck with the bike for 3 hours. Sufficed to say, we didn't cover the ground we wanted, and we were exhausted by the time we returned our bike. We also a) had a train to catch to Antwerp, and b) were quite parched. As we walked to the train station, still a little disheartened from our biking experience, we decided to stop at a sidewalk cafe across the street from the train station. It was about 3pm. Trains departed every hour for Antwerp.

Enjoying a Rodenbach Alexander
We ordered a Rodenbach Grand Cru and a Jupiler lager. The lager was pretty much what you expected from a pilsner, but the Rodenbach was unlike anything we had tried before. It was sour, with hints of plums and black current. Little maltiness, almost no hoppiness, and definite hint of vinegar. The beer was so complex that every taste was slightly different than the last, and so inviting, that you needed, wanted, to try more. This beer more than made up for a forgettable tandem bike ride. 

Like a lot of beer nerds, we like to discuss the beers we drink, in particular the geography and history behind the beer. This means we drink much slower than the average beer drinker. We missed the 4pm and 5pm trains to Antwerp. As most of you know, in Belgium, each beer has its own glass. Bars and cafes will not serve a beer if the correct glassware is unavailable. Sometime after we missed the 7pm train, our server announced they were out of Rodenbach glassware, and that we either would have to wait until they cleaned some, or we could order a different beer. In case you were wondering, we were not the only patrons drinking Rodenbach in the cafe! We opted to wait. Eventually we caught the 9pm train to Antwerp, happy with our discovery and knowing one of us had a new go-to-beer.

Talking with Rudi Ghequire
Fast forward two years and we received an invitation to go to the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, GA. It wasn't just any evening, but an evening when they were hosting Rudi Ghequire, the brewmaster from Rodenbach. We were able to interview him and talk to him about his passion for beer, and the history of the brewery. It was an evening we will never forget. Every time we share a Rodenbach, we fondly remember that afternoon in Bruges, where it all started.



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