Flanders Reds are a fantastic style. Because they're not too sour, too hoppy, or too high in alcohol, they're a fantastic starter beer for pretty much anyone. Hand a Cuvee de Jacobins to someone who says they've never had a beer the liked and you're pretty much guaranteed to get a positive reaction.
Rodenbach is a name that's pretty much synonymous with Flanders Red. It's all they do and they do them insanely well. They may not make a wide variety of beers, but the ones they do make are world class. So when a beer from them that I had never seen called Caractère Rouge hit stores a few months back, I knew it was going to be something special. Rodenbach decided to mix things up a bit with this one, adding sour cherries (typical for a Flanders Red), raspberries (not typical for a Flanders Red) and cranberries (What?!?!?) to a beer that has been aged in oak vats for 2 years. After a 6 month aging with the fruit, the beer was ready to go. At #145, Caractère Rouge.
Caractère Rouge pours a crimson-tinted apple cider color with a nice amount of haze to it. It's capped off by a tightly bubbled cream-colored head that held up nicely through the beer. From a distance, the first smell you get is a spicy oak barrel note. But the second you get closer, that fades and you're pulled in by huge amounts of ripe, jammy fruit. Overripe raspberry and tart cranberry notes lead, with just a kiss of vinegar and some syrup soaked black cherry notes. Vanilla, lemon meringue and a touch of spicy oak round things out. This beer smells fantastic.
It's not easy to do when a beer smells this good, but somehow Rodenbach got the taste of this one to match the smell. A sweet cranberry note opens things up with just a tug of tartness to it. This slowly fades into a sweet raspberry jam note. Ripe blueberry, cherry skin tannins and some silky malt notes appear before the finish. The beer closes out a touch dry with some oak and lingering dried cranberry and black cherry skin notes. There is a ton of sweetness in this beer, but the prickly carbonation and the slightly tannic finish keep things in check perfectly. This beer is a masterpiece and probably the best Flanders Red I've come across. Well done, Rodenbach.
Final Grade: A+
Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129