Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Kinds of Sour: Cuvée De Ranke

Much like my friend Joe at Old World Old School, who included drinking more beer and paying more attention to it among his resolutions for the New Year, I've been meaning to write about beer here at MFWT at least a little more often for some time now. It's the paying attention part that really clicked with me, as beer already slots in pretty regularly to my eating and drinking routines. There was a major focus on beer during the course of my posse's pub crawling activities last weekend. One of our stops, in particular, provided plenty to contemplate, though we of course never lost sight of pursuing the pleasure principle.

In a city increasingly populated with great beer-centric bars and restaurants (if only wine would catch up...), we still couldn't pass up a visit to that holy grail of all brews Belgian: Monk's Cafe. Having set the stage with a thirst quenching bottle of Cantillon Gueuze and a follow-up with Lost Abbey's Red Barn Ale, our server, Jill, didn't hesitate one second when I asked her what I should try next. "Cuvée De Ranke." Cantillon, I do love you; and Lost Abbey, I like you well enough, though I'm still getting to know you. But Jill nailed it, for on this day it was the Cuvée De Ranke that most captured my attention and most delivered on the principles of pleasure. With an ever so slightly sweet, more so sour center akin to better known Flemish Sour Ales, followed up by a funky, tart sneak-attack à la spontaneously fermented Gueuze, and finished off with a refreshing hint of hoppy bitterness, the De Ranke was a very complete, primordially satisfying brew.

Ex post-facto research reveals that my gut reactions to the beer were more accurate than I could have expected. "Cuvée," it turns out, actually is a blend of two styles of Belgian sour beer. About 70% of the blend is a red/brown sour ale brewed by De Ranke in the tradition of the Roeselare/Kortrijk/Oudenaarde regions, top-fermented using Rodenbach (perhaps the most famous Flemish sour producer) yeast strains. The other 30% of the blend is actually lambic, which De Ranke purchases from Brouwerij Girardin. After blending, the beer is bottle-matured before release. According to De Ranke, it is capable of mid-term aging. It didn't stand much of a chance of that on our table, though.

De Ranke is brought into the US by one of my favorite beer importers, Shelton Brothers; you'll find more information about their beers at the Sheltons' site as well as at De Ranke's homepage.


Joe Manekin said...

I've got to try (re-try?) the Cuvee. Have you had De Ranke's Kriek? Very good stuff and a bit less expensive than Cantillon's.

David McDuff said...

Haven't tried the Kriek yet, Joe. It's now on the list for next time 'round. Cuvée, too, was less pricey than some of its competitors' comparable brews.

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