Ommegang Rouge is a Flemish style sour red ale that is my pick as the best beer of 2009. Thanks to Al McCarty at the Blue Nile, who snatched up all the remaining kegs in the Twin Cities, it is quickly taking the lead for 2010. This beer is heaven in a glass. While Rouge is marketed as coming from Brewery Ommegang, the great producer of Belgian styles in Cooperstown, New York, the real story is more complicated. I’ll give it to you as I understand it.
When the Rodenbach Grand Cru, the benchmark beer of the style, was pulled from the US market a couple years ago Duvel Moortgat, the parent company of Ommegang, looked to fill the void. To do so they went to Brouwerij Bockor, a small, family owned brewery in Bellegem, Belgium near the French border. While better known for their lager beers, Bockor still produces a full line of traditionally brewed, spontaneously fermented lambics. Their Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge was the perfect choice to replace Rodenbach. It was introduced to the US market as a beer from Ommegang, presumably to cash in on that brewery’s brand recognition and reputation for crafting first-rate Belgian style beers.
Ommegang Rouge/Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge is a 100% unblended lambic beer. Made from a mix of barley malt and unmalted wheat, following a traditional spontaneous fermentation with wild yeast and bacteria from the air, it is aged in oak vats for a period of eighteen months. In my view it is a better beer than Rodenbach, which is a very tall order indeed. My understanding is that it will soon be available here under its original name. Here’s my notes:
Ommegang Rouge/Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge
Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York/
Brouwerij Bockor, Bellegem Belgium
Style: Flanders Red Ale
Serving Style: Draft
Aroma: Balsamic vinegar and fruit. Cranberries and cherries. Light barnyard
Appearance: Cherry red and clear. No head to speak of but maintains a fine film of foam on the surface of the beer and leaves light lacing on the glass.
Flavor: Sour, sweet, and fruity. While this is definitely a sour beer, the acidity is restrained and smooth. The tartness blends with a complex mix of background “footy” and barnyard flavors (in a good way) and an explosion of fruits. Currants, cherries, cranberries. Dry and tart but not without some lingering malt sweetness.
Mouthfeel: Light and refreshing. Moderately high carbonation. Sparkling. Pleasant acidic burn on the way down.
Overall: This beer is heaven in a glass. An outstanding example. My best beer of 2009 and taking an early lead in 2010.