Thursday 3 December 2015

Rodenbach the years

Belgian Bottle: this red ale punches
way above its weight
A cracking night’s sleep, a pleasant surprise delivered by this morning’s calendar and the long-awaited return of my US Fender Stratocaster appear to have put me in a stupidly good mood today.

I realise that will disappoint some readers, but as they’re probably only too aware, there’s plenty of time left for that to change. Sure as our current Government is composed of a bunch of greedy, corrupt, warmongering, amoral inadequates, so will my humour nosedive like a Paveway bomb raining down on innocent Syrian civilians before the year is out.

But such are the vagaries of the Beer Advent Calendar. On one of the most depressing days of the year so far (and there have been a few, haven’t there?), I seem to be breezing along without much in the way of worry. I almost dare not wonder why.

Better, then, to concentrate on the glorious, festive-looking bottle that greeted me as I peeled back the calendar flap this morning. Though I couldn’t see, I swear its crimson glow lit up my face in much the same way as a box of Terry’s All Gold did to grateful 70s housewives who featured in the in-no-way-sexist advertisements of that era.

I remember the first time I tried Rodenbach. Wandering a mite drunkenly from Toulouse’s Place Saint-Pierre along the raggedy cobbled backstreet of Rue Pargaminières, I double-took what looked like the greatest bar in the world. And to this (at the time) pub-starved, mildly intoxicated seeker of a half-decent beer in a confirmed wine town, it turned out it was. For a time, at least.

On entering La Tireuse, the Pink City’s only dedicated Belgian beer joint, I was faced with a pristine 20-strong row of gleaming silver beer taps and a chalkboard menu of such bounty I could scarcely take it all in. I knew maybe three or four of the thirty-odd advertised ales and stood rapt and awestruck at the bewildering choice in front of me. This was just unheard of in Toulouse - the best you could usually hope for was a choice between Pelforth and Heineken. 

Like any man in my situation and condition, I surmised the only way to deal with this was to work methodically, so I ordered the first beer on the list. Rodenbach. I knew nothing about it and was totally unsure of how it would taste. I don’t think I’d ever experienced anything of the Belgian red style by that point in my life, so it was a gamble.

One that paid off several times over. That night, after that first face-puckering slug, I stayed faithful to my new-found red friend. It was a sensation every time I sipped, its sour cherry base drawing me repeatedly into its welcoming tangy finish.

La Tireuse became my regular hangout after that. A comforting cubby hole of a place away from the growing madness that was my stint in the south of France. I must go back one day to see if they still have Rodenbach on tap. I’m sure they must.

But in the meantime, I’ll settle for this one in the comfort of my own home.

Beer: Rodenbach
Strength: A nondescript 5.2%
Smell: It smells like a dark hessian sack of wild Morello cherries left in a wooden barrel and soused in vinegar for the last 10 months.
Tasting notes: Yes, yes, I know the Grand Cru is better, etc. But just one gulp of this and I'm back in the Languedoc staring out of an oak-framed window and contemplating a falafel sharwarma from the Lebanese takeaway over the road. The smell makes you expect something bold and vicious, but this one's much classier than that. A silver-tongued rogue who flatters, defers to your superiour intellect, takes great pains to point out your handsomeness, laughs heartily at your jokes, fêtes you at every turn, urges others to marvel at your excellent countenance while all the time loosening the chain that fastens your expensive pocket watch to your waistcoat and ferreting it away in his pea-coat along with the wallet of yours he's already filched. The knave. Properly sneaky but you can't help admiring its nerve.
Session factor: It was much higher back then. I've been fleeced too often to enjoy its company as much these days, but its still worth the occasional indulgence.
Arbitrary score: 31,000

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