When anyone mentions Belgian Ale people tend to think of only a couple of styles of beer. Most folks’ recollection of what’s available is blonde and brown. It’s akin to asking a rural mid-westerner about American beer… well, there’s Budweiser and there’s Miller and then there’s Coors. Oh, and there’s lite beer, too. As we all know, that certainly doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. Same goes for the Belgians.
Think of Belgian brewing as the original craft beer movement. Ancient monks experimented with the many indigenous strains of hops over the centuries and that trial-and-error method yielded some interesting finds. For example, wild spontaneous fermentation and usage of fruit to enhance the flavor and texture of Brabant wheat led to the style known as lambic. With over 200 strains of wild yeast floating around Belgium’s valleys, the end result for a batch of ale would often be different from the one before.
Truth be told, these waffle-chewing practitioners of international law consistently produce just as many styles of beer as we do here in the States. The Trappists and abbey-style brewers tend to garner more attention as their craft is what’s most often practiced. Stouts, lambics, pale ales and sour ales are in ready supply from Antwerp to Flanders. There’s also Flemish red that is known for being tangy and tart in the same way vinegar is. Doesn’t sound appealing? As beer guru and author Michael Jackson (no, not that one, the other one) explains it, think of elements of balsamic vinegar or Greek retsina. Yet, not like either of those at all.
Kind Beer from Charlotte, NC has their own spin on the Flemish red that is ridiculously drinkable. Using Trappist yeast with Belgian and German malts, Kind Red comes out deep garnet-colored. The foamy head, to me, looks like pancake batter just poured onto a griddle. It smells dusty and malty like a British ale with faint notes of honey, bruleed orange, apricot and saltine cracker. There’s big malt sweetness here without being cloying at all. Tangy flavors of fresh pineapple, red apple and a touch of caramel round out this ale with just a faint trace of hop bitterness at the finish. The abundant carbonation is crisp, clean and texturally pleasing.