Let’s just get this out of the way right up front. The Duchesse is the most wonderfully foul, rank, and abhorrent beer I’ve ever had. Just don’t ask me to try it again.

It’s a Flanders Red, which stylistically means you better get ready for a puckering experience worse than the last time you told your boss they looked good in that searsucker suit. Brewed with lactobacillus, these beers emit a piercing and intensely tart, sour characteristic. It’s essentially lactic acid in a bomber. Despite their attempts to blend younger and older versions of the beer to help balance some of this out, you’re still in for a shock.   

Poured with an appealing reddish coloring, fairly clear, but with a bit of yeast sediment. Pretty big, yeasty head. Smelled like a dank bath rag that’s been sitting in the corner of your tub for a week. Spoiled and sour, a moldy rancidness. However, you have to understand, stylistically that’s not a knock because that’s exactly what they’re going for. But from a personal preference perspective? Meh. They age the beer in an oak-barrel for a year, but you don’t really get any of that in the nose. The sourness dominates. You do, however, pick up a somewhat perceptible aroma of anise.

Taste is very sweet right up front, some kind of darker fruit, maybe prunes. But it quickly fades into more of the biting sourness. In fact, the beer is intensely prickly. It climbed up the back of my throat and invaded my nasal membranes. I almost choked up a few times, it was all-encompassing. My eyes watered.

You’d think at this point that I’d put the snifter down and move on to another beer. But no, I don’t give up that easily. For this is the highest rated Flanders Red on Beer Advocate, and by god, I was going to savor it.

They call this beer “The Burgundies of Belgium” on the label, and I think it’s aptly named as this beer is probably more similar to wine than it is to your standard ale. Stylistically, I realize this is one of those benchmark beers, and that’s weighing heavily into my rating. I mean for chrissake, it won the Gold Medal at the World Beer Cup. But I only appreciated it from an R&D standpoint…it’s definitely not a beer (or style) I could drink even occasionally.

Rating: B