Brewery: Brouwerij Bockor (BEL)
Style: Flanders Red / Sour Beer
As occasionally happens, I knew that I loved Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge before I sat down to review it. You may consider this to be a slightly biased, but there's no law saying a review can only come from one's first experience. I like to keep track of and make notes on the beers that I really love. I don't set out to review beers to cast judgement upon them; I review beers so I can recommend the ones that stand out. And as it happens, this is a beer I really, really love.
As you'd expect from a Flanders Red, Cuvee is hugely, puckeringly sour, launching a salvo of vinegar-tinted acid javelins through your tongue. Unlike other hugely sour beers, though, Cuvee des Jacobins is even more staggering for its complexity. Nothing gets lost under that assault of flavor; indeed, the sourness only seems to erase your memory of everything else you've ever tasted, all so that you may better appreciate Cuvee's rich, layered nuances. The nose is beautiful, with intense suggestions of vanilla, cherry, tart berries and oak. If that sounds like exactly what you'd expect of a Flander's Red, it is: this is merely the perfect vessel of Flanders Redness, the most Flandery, reddish embodiment of beer you could hope to find. Have I mentioned that Flanders Red is one of my very favorite styles of beer?
The flavor expands upon everything you're expecting, with a balance that should be impossible in anything this tart. And yet, the tartness somehow highlights all the fruit notes below: more cherry, more tart berries, and some other dark fruit — pomegranates, plum, snozzberries, etc. I prefer fruity beers when there's no actual fruit involved, and this style, as well as IPAs, can really nail that dichotomy like nothing else. But Flanders are about some lingering sweetness, too, and for backup here we have a relatively balanced oak character, with just a touch of sweet spicy vanilla. A drying apple vinegar sourness finishes things off, tingling and effervescent, clinching your tongue and refuses to let go until you, helplessly, drink the whole damn beer. Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge may be mildly addicting.
Availability: Bockor started bottling this the other year, and it appears to be available year round. 11.2 oz bottle, but reasonably priced. Given the availability, price, and quality, this is an insanely great value.