Typified by Rodenbach, the eponymous brand that started this type over a century ago, this beer’s distinguishing features from a technical viewpoint are a specially roasted malt, fermentation by a mixture of several ‘ordinary’ top-fermenting yeasts and a lactobacillus culture (the same type of bacteria yogurt is made with) and maturation in oak. The result is a mildly strong ‘drinking’ beer with a deep reddish-brown colour and a distinctly acidic, sour yet fruity and mouthy taste. This style is closely related to Oud bruin.*
This style of beer, (more commonly known as “Sour” beer as of late) is gaining widespread popularity among Belgian, American, and other breweries in other countries. Some of the world class Flemish Red beers from Belgium: De Dolle Oerbier, Omer Vander Ghinste Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge, and Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne (Duchesse is also known as a “Oud Bruin”). Some great Flemish Red style beers from the United States: Russian River Consecration, Lost Abbey Cuvee De Tomme, and Captain Lawrence Rosso e Marrone.
Flemish Red style beers are extremely well suited for cooking, taking the place of Sherry, Madeira or Marsala.
* Article from Wikipedia: “Beer in Belgium”
Flemish Red Beer Characteristics
AROMA / BOUQUET:
Complex fruitiness with complementary malt. Fruitiness is high, and reminiscent of black cherries, oranges, plums or red currants. There is often some vanilla and/or chocolate notes. Spicy phenols can be present in low amounts for complexity. The sour, acidic aroma ranges from complementary to intense. No hop aroma. Diacetyl is perceived only in very minor quantities, if at all, as a complementary aroma.
Deep red, burgundy to reddish-brown in color. Good clarity. White to very pale tan head. Average to good head retention.
FLAVOR / TASTE:
Intense fruitiness commonly includes plum, orange, black cherry or red currant flavors. A mild vanilla and/or chocolate character is often present. Spicy phenols can be present in low amounts for complexity. Sour, acidic character ranges from complementary to intense. Malty flavors range from complementary to prominent. Generally as the sour character increases, the sweet character blends to more of a background flavor (and vice versa). No hop flavor. Restrained hop bitterness. An acidic, tannic bitterness is often present in low to moderate amounts, and adds an aged red wine-like character with a long, dry finish. Diacetyl is perceived only in very minor quantities, if at all, as a complementary flavor.
MOUTHFEEL / PALATE:
Medium bodied. Low to medium carbonation. Low to medium astringency, like a well-aged red wine, often with a prickly acidity. Deceivingly light and crisp on the palate although a somewhat sweet finish is not uncommon.
A complex, sour, red wine-like Belgian-style ale. Quenching; can be used as an Apéritif.
Flemish Red Beer characteristic descriptives from 2008 BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. (http://www.bjcp.org)