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With more than 100 different Belgian beers on draught throughout the weekend, beer geeks in the Twin Cities didn’t need to look far to find some fantastic offerings at this year’s Belgian Beer Festival at The Muddy Pig in St. Paul.  

After helping a friend with some home improvement projects at his house just a stones throw from the bar, my wife and I walked over Sunday afternoon to catch the mid-day NFL games and try some great Belgian ales. Compared to last year, the selection seemed much larger and more interesting, a sign that hopefully we’ll be seeing more of these delicious beers on tap around town.

Verhaeghe Echte Kriekenbier
A beautiful Flanders red. Great amber red appearance, bretty and sour, with a nice biting cherry finish. My wife tried a sip, and thought it smelled like a foot. Mission accomplished.

Rating: A-

Saison Dupont
One of the benchmarks of the style. Spicy aroma, coriander and yeast. Nice bitterness in the flavor, earthy but not barnyard. Enjoyable.

Rating: A- 

Poperings Hommelbier
Tried this for the first time at last year’s event, and still pretty impressed. The Belgians have a different approach to IPAs, but it works. Very distinct aroma, smells like a rose bush. Mellow hop bite, with a subtle bitterness in the finish.

Rating: B+

La Rulles Estivale
A Belgian pale, characterized by a yeasty, toasty aroma and smooth flavor. Almost akin to a German pilsner in some ways. A nice beer.

Rating:  B+ 

La Divine
From Brasserie de Silly, you’d never guess this was a tripel from its dark appearance. But this one surprises you with a sweet maltiness, plenty of toffee notes and candi sugar in the flavor. Creamy mouthfeel. Really liked this beer.

Rating: A

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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

Flat Earth Brewing over in St. Paul has a few new offerings coming out soon, and one of them caught my eye…their Winter Warlock English Barleywine. My last experience with a barleywine, Rogue’s Old Crustacean, left a little to be desired, so I’m hoping this one turns out better. They’re also releasing (or bringing back) their Black Helicopter Coffee Stout, Rode Haring Flanders Red Ale, and Bermuda Triangle Tripel.

Thanks to BeerSage over at BeerNews.org for the heads up.