Five Fantastic Flemish Sour Ales

Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge Flemish sour red ale

A few months ago, I wrote a post spotlighting my favorite sour beers. That post has since become one of the most popular entries on this blog—based on page views—because a whole lot of people apparently search Google for “sour beer” and “the best sour beers.”

Many different styles of sour beer exist today, but my single favorite style is the Flemish or Flanders sour red/brown ale.

If you’re unfamiliar with the style it consists of Belgian red or brown ales aged in oak for long periods of time, sometimes multiple years, and then typically blended with “younger” beer of the same style to balance the acidic, sour flavor.

From the Oxford Companion to Beer:

“Oak aging allows lactic fermentation to occur and some additional conditioning by slowly working yeasts, turning the beer slightly sour like neatly aged wine, though many varieties [of Flemish/Flanders aged ales] are later softened by the addition of younger beer.”

Flemish sour ales are often favored by red-wine drinkers because of the crossover in taste. They’re also extremely refreshing. These beers are often expensive, at least compared to other brews, but a lot of work goes into them and they’re usually well worth the price, in my opinion. Here’s a quick list of the best Flemish/Flanders red/brown sour ales I’ve tasted:

1) Brouwerij Bockor Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge

My single favorite Flemish sour ale is Bockor Brewery’s Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge. It’s very sour and acidic yet impressively balanced.  Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge is made from spontaneously fermented beer that’s been aged in oak for at least 18 months.

2) Anything Rodenbach

The most common, easiest to find and least challenging Rodenbach beer is the brewery’s flagship Rodenbach Red. It’s the least sour of its brews, and it’s a great starting point for drinkers looking to experiment with the Flemish sour style and sour beer in general. Folks with an established taste for sour beer will also appreciate Rodenbach’s Grand Cru, which is more sour than Rodenbach Red because it’s composed of more older-aged beer and less young beer, and Rodenbach’s Reserve series.

3) Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck Bacchus

Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck’s Bacchus Flemish brown ale is another must-try Flemish sour beer. It’s similar to the other beer noted here, but it has a very fruity aroma.

4) Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne

Duchesse de Bourgogne, or just “Duchesse” as it’s often called in beer bars, is a reddish-brown Flemish sour ale that’s notable due to its strong vinegar taste, which blends nicely with its sour body. The beer is top fermented and is a blend of eight-month and 18-month-old oak-aged beers.

5) Brouwerij Verhaeghe Vichtenaar

Vichtenaar is another top-notch Flemish sour ale from Brouwerij Verhaeghe, and it’s aged in oak casks for at least eight months, but unlike most of the other beers featured in this post, it’s not blended with any other younger or older beer.

Those are my five favorite Flemish sour ales. Drop a comment below if you know of any other worthy Flemish sour brews that should be on my list.


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8 thoughts on “Five Fantastic Flemish Sour Ales

  1. Lode says:

    That’s quite a complete list. I’d add two more:
    – Liefmans Goudenband
    – Morpheus Wild Undressed (this one is less known, it is by micro-brewery Alvinne, it is almost not for sale, because they use it themselves as the basis for their beer ‘Morpheus Wild’)

    Btw, a few months ago the breweries in you list, together wih the two in this comment, have applied with the European Union to be recognized as a “Regional Product”, sort of like Parmesan cheese, Bordeaux wine, …. If it gets approved, the term ‘Flemish red Ale’ or ‘Flemish Redbrown’ (or at least the Flemish translation of this) can only be used if the beer is brewed in a very restricted area in Flandres (the triangle Kortrijk – Tielt – Oudenaarde).

    • Hey Lode,

      Thanks for the information. I think I’ve had Liefmans Goudenband, but I’m not sure I’ve ever even heard of the Morpheus Wild Undressed ale you mention. I’ll have to keep and eye out for it. I also didn’t know about the group’s reaching out to the EU. That sounds like a good thing, and it reminds me of how sparkling white wine cannot be called Champagne unless it’s from the Champagne region of France.

      Anyway, I simply love this style of ale. I had a bottle of Rodenbach 2010 Reserve last night, and I savored every sip. Now I just need to get my hands on Rodenbach’s Caractere Rouge limited release.


  2. […] all I want to drink—except for IPAs; I still love my hops. (Check out my lists of sour ales and Flemish red/brown ales for details on my favorite […]

  3. […] and that’s Rodenbach time as far as I’m concerned. I’m about to crack a frosty Flemish red, and I thought I’d share this funky old vintage Rodenbach sign I recently found on the […]

  4. Finding these at even a well-stocked brew shop can be difficult! I’ve had the Vichtenaar and it is indeed excellent. If you’re unable to find all of these, as I was, also give Petrus and Monk’s Cafe a shot.

    • Some of them can be hard to find, yes. But I’m lucky enough to have some really good liquor stores and beer bars in my area. I can usually find most of these beers in my list. The various Petrus ages beers are worth a try as well. I don’t love Monk’s Cafe, but it’s not bad. Thanks for the recommendations.


  5. Bierbattered says:

    Reblogged this on Bier Battered [.] com and commented:
    In a sour beer mood today. Great choices here!

  6. Matthew McClure says:

    Oude tart by California brewer The Bruery is very good. I found it to be more on the sour side than Duchesse which I thought had much more fruit characteristic

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