The Duchesse de Bourgogne… Just saying it sounds so regal, so special, so elegant. The Duchesse is all of those and more. It’s complex, refined, and exquisite. It does not need another to stand out, as she is able to do that all on her own – but once complimented, she is ever more so intriguing. Like a strong woman, the Duchesse represents confidence amongst those she shares the bar with, yet she is soft and supple in those areas that are to be appreciated. Who is the Duchesse de Bourgogne? You ask? I’ll restate the question as WHAT is the Duchesse de Bourgogne? The Duchesse de Bourgogne is hands down one of the tastiest beers I have ever had.
Yes, you read it right – a BEER! I first tasted this red ale while preparing for the The Belgians Are Coming Belgian Beer Festival. There we were, standing in what was to be the VIP area of the beer festival when the decision was made to taste some of the beers that had begun to arrive. We probably tasted 15 beers maybe? I wasn’t really counting to be honest. But of all the beers we tried, The Duchesse de Bourgogne is the one I remember.
Although this is a red ale, the color of it is actually rather dark, ruby like, and the head (the foam) reminded me of the color of sand on the beach. At first taste, I couldn’t help think of wine and thought that the appropriate way to drink it would be in a wine glass. (Later I learned the proper vessel to enjoy this ale is reminiscent of a wine goblet.) There was this oakiness in it, this sweetness, yet some sourness to it as well. A balance that most chefs struggle to master in their dishes let alone a Brewmaster. I vividly remember tasting hints of caramel, butter, cherries and malt. The flavors seem to change throughout the tasting process and remain interesting up through to the dry, long finish.
I learned later that the wine, uh I mean beer, is actually aged in oak for 18 months – that made so much more sense to me now. This explains that oakiness, butter and caramel flavors. The beer is then blended with a younger beer, aged only for 8 months, and then bottled. Hailing from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Belgium, with approximately 6% alcohol, this craft beer is brewed with deep-roasted barley malt and hops.
Leave it to those Belgians to create something so tasty that if it weren’t for the head, could easily be mistaken for a sophisticated glass of wine.