Sunday, May 31, 2009

Castle Macadam and Rodenbach Grand Cru

Yesterday I made the 40-minute walk from my house to Castle Macadam. It is not, as it’s name suggests, a castle. It is a beer store, a genuine, mouth-watering (at least for a beer geek like myself) bottle shop. It is exactly the sort of place I’ve been looking for since arriving in Dunedin, the sort of place I am used to frequenting in the states.

Castle Macadam has been mentioned several times in my search for a beer store, but given my disappointment with the other stores recommended in the same sentence, I was hesitant to make the trek. It was only after the topic of beer stores came up in my conversation with Chris O’Leary, and after he gave his approval of the place, that my hesitancy turned to reserved optimism.

Entering the store brought me a feeling of comfort. It sounds silly, but it is nice to find a store where the staff (one man in this case) really know what they are talking about, where you can go, even with no intention of buying anything, just because it is an enjoyable environment.

I will hopefully be posting more about Castle Macadam as I plan on returning not only as a customer, but also to learn a bit more about the retail aspect of the beverage industry. I bought a bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru, which will be the subject for the remainder of this post.

If I had to name the major weaknesses in my experience as a beer drinker I would name one broad geographical problem, and several style specific issues. Geographically speaking, I find that I rarely buy beer produced outside The United States. This is simply because it does not make sense to spend the extra money on foreign beer, when there is a brewery in the states making a similar product. While this is a nice problem to have, it means that when it comes to Belgian style beer, I have very little experience with actual Belgian beers, or at least not as much experience as I would like to have.

On a more micro level, I just simply haven’t consumed a lot of sour beer: Lambics, Guezes, Krieks, Flanders Red and Bruin. Rodenbach Grand Cru, as a Flanders Red, falls squarely in the center of both the geographic and stylistic black holes in my palate experience.

My research into Rodenbach Grand Cru revealed that the sour complexity of the beer is achieved through the use of five yeast strains. Grand Cru in particular uses yeast, and a barrel-conditioning period of 18 months to achieve a ridiculous level of sour fruity complexity. I have posted my review below.

Rodenbach Grand Cru 6%

750 ml bottle poured into a wine glass.

A: Pours a dark reddish brown with a fizzy tan head

S: Wow. I don't have much experience with any of the sour beer styles so that is probably why I was blown away by the smell and taste: Vinegar like sourness mixes with sweet cherry and vanilla. There is some oak as well from the aging process.

T: Again this was an eye opener. Tartness and sweetness that I can only describe as cherry-like are followed by some earthiness/mustiness from the oak and from the yeast. There may be some malt and hops somewhere in this beer but they are hard to pick out.

M: Fizzy Champaign-like carbonation cuts the medium body and acts in opposition to the tongue coating quality of the beer. Finishes pretty clean.

D: Amazingly complex beer which makes it a pleasure to consume.

Notes: If I didn't know better, I would be sure that this was brewed with cherries. It’s crazy that they achieve that level of fruitiness just through using various strains of yeast.

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