If there is a lot of hype surrounding Duchesse de Bourgogne, brewed by Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Vichte, Belgium, I am largely unaware. Perhaps there ought to be, though, as this beer contains some absolutely unique flavors, and should be a rite of passage for those who immerse themselves in the beer culture and venture into the brave new world of sour beers.

Duchesse de Bourgogne, pronounced “Doo-shay Day Boor-GON-Yuh” means Duchess of Burgandy, and was named in honor of the famed and revered, Mary of Burgandy.  Still today,  Duchesse is indeed a royal beer, as it was requested to be served at the wedding of Crown Prince of Denmark, Frederik, when he and Princess Mary united in holy matrimony, May 14, 2004.

To understand why this beer has such a unique flavor, one must grapple with it’s creation.  To begin with, the brewer selects water only from a deep French aquifer that has a prized chemical compilation that can be matched by no other water source.  If you think this an insignificant detail, think again.  Brewing is a chemical science, and water has as much an impact on flavor often as malt ingredients.

After brewing with only roasted malts (no pale malts), the beer is fermented in oak barrels.  The porous nature of these barrels attracts bacteria which naturally sour the beer.  Many brewers utilize oak barrels for this purpose, but in this case, the brewers take it a step further using oak liquor casks, some having been used for 80 years.

Then, like many other breweries in Belgium and throughout the world, the beer is blended to come up with that unique flavor, that can come only as a result of hand craftsmanship.  So what is it like?

As was mentioned earlier, this beer is extremely unique.  Upon opening the bottle and pouring, fragrant whiffs make their way into the nose, without the consumer putting forth any effort to smell.  Strong, strong scents of vinegar reach the nose.  It smells similar to a fruity balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  There are strong notes of cherry, and an expected acidic sour flavor.  These aromas can be a bit off-putting, as they are a tad funky.

At first sip, I must be honest, I reeled a little in shock at the vinegar flavor.  This beer is not like others in its class.  The vinegar quality is pleasantly complimented by apparent notes of raisins, mild rum, a flavor reminiscent of apple cider, brown sugar, and various herb like spice flavors.  Often when one reads a beer review, it seems that flavors are cherry picked from a “classic beer flavors reference guide.”  Not so in this case these flavors are so notable.

The longer one sips this beer, the more enjoyable it becomes.  Were the alcohol content any higher than 6.2%, it may be too balsamic like and unpalatable.  As it is, it is delightful, although, as is the case with many beers, I believe if a life long American Lager drinker threw some down his throat, he would probably vomit.

Nate’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★½ 

Among other Belgian Flanders Red Ales: ★★★★¼ 


(From the Brewery’s Website)
Beer fermentation
-Color: Ruby Red
-Hl ° Plato: 16
-Vol. Alc.: 6.2
-Flavor: sweet, acidic, fruity
-Packaging bottle #: 24 * 25 cl
-Barrel Packaging: 30 l
Duchesse de Bourgogne is a sweet, fruity beer with a pleasant fresh-acidic oak finish.
Duchesse de Bourgogne is brewed with deep-roasted barley malt and hops with a low bitterness level.
After the main fermentation and the second bearing the beer undergoes third bearing of approximately 18 months in oak vats. The present oak tannins give the “Duchesse” fruity character. After this bearing is the “Duchesse” cut with less beer, 8 months old. The result is a “Duchesse de Bourgogne” with a full, sweet and light rinzige taste. A ruby red jewel of 6.2% vol. alc. that the best paid between 8 and 12 ° C. A perfect beer!