Brouwerij Verhaeghe “Vichtenaar Flanders Red”

May 28, 2013

It’s milestone time again, folks. Hopjacks Filling Station out in East Pensacola Heights just celebrated its first anniversary of business. I think congratulations are in order for the staff and for the fine folks who helped Filling Station become a neighborhood success.

A year ago, I was three things at once; excited for the grand opening, sore from the extensive physical labor I invested on the project, and nervous over the general population’s willingness to get the concept. By the time I left that night I was one more thing: wiped out from the tsunami of enthusiastic business we received.

I’ve since moved up the company ladder to my current station behind my desk, intrepidly hunting down any and all cool beer that might ever be available to us while planning and scheming for special events and new methods of promoting beer’s presence in our area. In the meantime, the Filling Station has been in the capable and genuinely excited hands of Megan Edwards and her staff of malt miscreants. It’s like seeing your kid off to college, beaming at their triumphs and losing sleep over their stumbles. Eventually, there’s the point when the realization is reached that they’re going to be just fine out on their own.

A year ago I celebrated the grand opening over a bottle of pucker-inducing Rodenbach Grand Cru. 365 days later and I find it apropos to consider another Flanders red ale: Vichtenaar. While Rodenbach benefits from much longer oak cask maturation, Vichtenaar manages to bring plenty of tangy, sour nuances with only an 8-month aging. Without blending from other, older ale — like Rodenbach – it’s not as rich in the mouth feel and the natural acidity takes center stage.

Verhaeghe, the brewery family that makes Vichtenaar and Duchesse de Bourgogne, claims burnt malt in addition to water from a well 172 meters deep add to the distinctive character. My geologist father informed me of the elevated levels of calcium bicarbonate and iron present in West Flanders’ Paleozoic water aquifer from which the well draws. Knowing this, I can definitely see a mineral-metallic tang stemming from this presence.

Vichtenaar’s color is a kaleidoscope of garnet, ruby and mahogany with a lacy head that stays quite a while. Bright apple skin and sour cherry dominate the nose with a faint whiff of vanilla off the oak barrel. Flavors of brown sugar and fresh berries are there but their sweetness is kept in check by a cider-like sourness while abundant carbonation cleanses the palate.

The Filling Station staff loves this tart, vinegary-yet-refreshing beer; a conclusion they came to all on their own. That makes me a proud papa. Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they?