Style: Single Vat Flanders Red
Brewer’s Note: “RODENBACH the exceptional Flemish red-brown sour ale of mixed fermentation, takes on its unique character by maturing in handmade oak vats, some over 150 years old. This exclusive limited edition Vintage by RODENBACH is the result of a two-year aging process in Vat Number 95, resulting in our finest ale produced. Enjoy its unparalleled sweet and sour palette with a complex aftertaste.”
The beer’s label is classy yet cluttered. I’ve reviewed Rodenbach’s labels in the past, but I do like how the year is clearly labeled here. Its fanciness could make it look nice on a sophisticated shelf, and its rarity gives it collectability. The choice is yours.
The beer pours out with a mid-sized head of tanning bubbles the color of white sand dunes. The head has mild lasting qualities, but eventually settles into a thick scrim around my glass. In color, the beer pours a dark burgundy with touches of ruby. Its body is clean and clear of all particles, but it sits seemingly opaque in the glass due to its darkness. On the nose, this beer screams Rodenbach. Tart cherries, malt vinegar, rich oak, vanilla, leather, and even a touch of earthiness flood the nostrils in funky scents. Caramel makes an appearance as the backbone of the smell, providing a sweet, candied bread quality. The oak is really where the nose shines in character, however, with not overpowering richness that bristles with tannins, coats with vanilla, and eases a light toast into the funky scent of the beer. On the tongue, the beer tastes tart and sweet with a mild bitter tannin bringing balance to the beer. The acidity of the beer is most present at the start and close of the sip, while the sweetness seems to sit happily in the sips middle, blanketed towards the end by the bitters. There is superb balance and rich complexity to this beer. In flavor, it begins as rich cherry pie and leather, this opens into funky barnyard, more cherries, and a healthy dose of oak which brings herbal-bitter tannins alongside rich vanilla to the tongue. The finish is sweet with a final hiccup of tart cherry at its close, and lasts beautifully upon the palate, lingering heavily into the aftertaste with sweet cherry and caramel notes alongside touches of scratchy and bizarrely tasty horse blanket and malt vinegar. In the mouth, this beer feels medium in body with a lighter finish. The beer coats the mouth nicely with a mild carbonation, providing light effervescence and levity to the sip. In mouthfeel, the beer has a slightly syrupy pull to the cheeks while remaining smooth. The barrel definitely provides gripping tannins to the cheeks, and the acidity helps to further pull out the cheeks in a pucker. When the beer has left, the mouth is left with a light pool of acid-cancelling spittle and a slight sticky-sweet resin. Overall, this beer is delightfully complex. Rich oak character, fantastic funk, and subtle sweetness blend masterfully in this vintage. Rodenbach is the master of the Flanders Red, and this vintage ale is a perfect example of that. This beer is a delightful blend of everything that makes a Flanders Red a joy to drink. Vat 95 did very well here.
I paired this beer with a nice steak because it felt like an interesting experiment to incur. As it fell, the strong vinegar acidity of the beer overpowered the subtler flavors of the steak. The steak I paired the beer with, granted, was not of the finest quality and was slightly overcooked for my liking, but I feel that if I were to pair a Flanders Red and steak in the future, I would ensure that the steak was coated in a nice rich cream or mushroom sauce that the acidity of the beer could have fun cutting through. The beer did, however, pair surprisingly well with the steamed broccoli on my plate, and led me to wonder what would happen if you steamed broccoli in a Flanders Red… I suspect I will find out at a later date. The pairing was not horrible, as the fat of the steak did lessen the acidity of the beer and really brought forward the beer’s fruit flavors, but it didn’t help in showcasing the steak. In the future, with just a lightly seasoned steak, I would try pairing with a lighter flavored beer, perhaps a red ale or a Vienna or dunkel lager, in order to not overpower the richness of the steak.