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Duchesse De Bourgogne

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A couple of years ago, I was at Sergio’s World Beers. As is his wont, Sergio was giddy over a beer he’d just gotten on draft: Duchesse De Bourgogne, a Flanders red ale brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium. I had never tried the stuff, but he was eagerly offering those he knew tastes of it. He brought one to me and said, “Have you had this yet?”

“No,” I replied.

“Try it. It’s very special.”

He was right. I ended up ordering three of them (only later to find out they were $8 a pop – oops!). This one is indeed special enough to warrant paying a steep price, although you can find 750ml bottles around town for under 12 bucks if you keep your eyes open. But I recently found it on draft at Eiderdown in Germantown, and the bartender told me it is almost always available there. Now I know.

The ruby-red Duchesse (pronounced dew-SHAY) is a top-fermented ale from the West-Flanders region of Belgium, and is a blend of two beers aged 8 and 18 months, respectively. I’m not even sure how to describe this beer, other than to say it’s a smooth, medium-bodied, lightly sour glass of heaven, with notes of plum – it reminds some of a less-acidic red wine, but there is a dry, vinegar-like note as well. I’ve had more adventurous sours (I like any oud bruin style ale, and some of them get pretty wild), but this one hits the right spot for me every time. It’s the queen of beers, if you will.