Style: Flanders Red-Style Ale
From: Parma, Italy
Brewer’s Note: “The dark, sour, barrel aged beers native to the Netherlands and Belgian Flanders represent one of the oldest beer styles in the world. Barriquée is the only all-natural, traditionally-made example you will find today, and it comes from, of all places Italy. The deep earthy, sour character results from three months of maturation in cognac barrels from Bordeaux, followed by re-fermentation and further aging in the bottle. This unfiltered, unpasteurized, complex and delicious beer is the inspired work of Dr. Renozo Losi, whose Panil brewery makes many excellent natural beers in time-honored, classic styles.”
The beer’s label is classy and colorful, and actually is giving me the flair of Spanish wine labels, though that could very well be me. The fonts are crisp and funky, and the coloring is fascinating. The clutter is minimal on the label, and overall there is little to hate, but it still comes across a touch bland to my eyes, which is too bad given how great the individual elements are. This label is worthy of scrapbooking.
The beer pours a gorgeous, muddled pink, almost like a fruited Berliner Weisse. It sits in the glass a regal, dark purple color with maroon and ruby hues. The beer pours with a head of miniscule, creamy white bubbles that form a pillow, and then quickly settles into a fat scrim around the beer. In body, the beer is dark and hazy, but clear of particles and cloudiness. On the nose, the beer smells of light vinegar, cherries, leather, and nearly vinous. Touches of grape and soft plum dance on the edges of the scent along with rich vanilla from the oak. The funky leather and cherry scents are earthy and rich with vinegar, which I adore, but they are also constrained and mellow. The nose of this beer revels in subtle complexity; it is funky, but not in a way that would kick your nose. On the tongue, the beer tastes tart with acidity, sweet with fruity malt, and bitter with oak tannin. The oak leaves a strange twinge to the pucker in your cheeks. The beer finishes dry and tannic. In flavor, the beer begins as sweet plum juice, tinged with tart cherry leather, this bulls head on into a wall of rich, oak tannin that blankets the middle of the sip, all but obliterating the fruity notes and bringing vanilla, earth and finally a touch of chocolate into play. Touches of grape juice and rich red wine can also be sensed in the start of the sip, while the finish is long and decadent with oak, vanilla, touches of tart grapes, and bitter herbal tannin. The aftertaste is hard to distinguish from the finish, as the beer has tremendous lasting power in the mouth. For all intents and purposes, the finish and the aftertaste are the same. In body, the beer is on the light side of medium, with a middling carbonation that gives a nice pillow to the tongue. Mouthfeel is smooth, if a bit watery, providing superb drinkability until the beer hits the back of the palate. In the back, the tannin does touch with a quick bite of astringency, but this quickly fades to just leave a bit of tightness in the tongue. The mouth is left slightly dry, with just a touch of saliva oozing in to cancel the lingering acidity of the beer. Overall, this is yet another superb Flanders Red. This particular beer revels in the rich character it gained from unique Bordeaux cognac barrels. Admittedly, I have not drank a lot of cognac from Bordeaux (I thought Cognac could only be made in a region surrounding the town of Cognac?) but I think an experienced Cognac drinker would definitely find subtle hints within this beer reminiscent of that drink. This is a Flanders Red of subtle intrigue and beauty, like a fine red wine. It unfurled on my tongue like a puzzle, and I very much enjoyed that. My chief complaint with the beer comes from its thinness. I want my Flanders Reds to be medium bodied, and this one is just a little too far below this bench mark for me. It is superbly drinkable, but loses a little oomf. The beer’s tannic structure also allows it to grip the mouth quite nicely, and provides some amazing complexities, though it is a little too raw for my personal tastes. In the end though, it’s a great Flanders red. This is an expensive beer here in the States (pretty much all Italian beers are) but it is well worth the money. Go pick one up.
As a random happenstance, I tried making my first venison burger today. I threw a lot of random things into the burger mix. Off of the top of my head this is what it looked like: venison burger, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle hot sauce, egg, chili pepper, salt, pepper, parsley, ketchup, mustard, and scallions. I had this burger, so I decided to pair it with the beer. On its own, the burger was a bit charred, but rich and meaty with a nice smoked flavor (probably because I charred the outside of it…). With the beer, the burger tasted slightly sweeter and like it had a touch of vinegar thrown on. The pairing was meh, but didn’t really drown out either the beer or the burger… They just seemed to happily coexist on the palate. I suppose the beer’s acidity did cut through some of the charred flavors, while the beer’s sweet flavors played nicely with the fatty meat of the burger, but overall I wouldn’t advise the pairing. This is a delicate beer and needs a more delicate dish to go beside. Perhaps a heartier fish meat like shark, salmon, or tuna steaks would pair nicely with the beer. I would also love to try it beside spaghetti, or other noodle dishes, as I think the bready noodles would play very well with the beer’s sweet and sour flavoring, as well as its rich bitter tannins.