Life changing drinks come rarely but, when they do, they are a thing to cherish. For example, I'll never forget my first taste of Ardbeg 10 YO, which literally changed my perception of flavour possibilities. Then there was the 40 year old bottle of Bordeaux on my Mum’s fortieth that filled the room with the most amazing aroma and, more recently, albeit over a decade ago, my first sour beer at the Malt House in Wellington whilst having drinks after work.
Ah, those were the days, when the anchor of kids and a mortgage had not been dropped and I was free to sail the seas of what most people call a social life. But I digress. The beer was La Duchesse de Bourgogne that I later discovered was known as the Burgundy of Belgium. And, wine-like it certainly was... in the most splendid of ways. There was an acid structure reminiscent of a Meursault and hints of oak ageing too that I wasn’t used to finding in a beer. This one beer, for me, had managed to straddle the realms of wine and beer in a way I hadn’t previously known was possible.
So, when I spotted the Duchesse Petite, I was hoping for a trip down memory lane, a revisitation to a fondly cherished moment of many years ago… and I wasn’t disappointed.
Pouring it into the glass it’s apparent where the term Flemish Red comes from. This beauty is a deep rich mahogany and could pass for a glass of tawny port if it weren’t for the head. The nose explodes with bright green cider apples and a zing that is balanced by subtle hints of vanilla and a complex microbial funk from its time in barrel. Start as you mean to continue, I always say, and this beer does just that, following with a lightness of body and a beautiful sweet and sour profile on the palate; zesty green fruits mixing this time with ripe red apples, berry fruits and a subtle cola-like hit too. And there’s that sense of acid, the key to it all, that cuts through the palate like a sword swallower’s blade descending into his or her throat.
I doubt this is for everyone, but if sours are your bag then Bob’s your uncle. If not, why not just give it a go… it might even change your life.