Sweetness and acidity: the perfect equilibrium

21 September 2020

An old advert stated “Rodenbach, du vin”

It was the English journalist Michael Jackson who first compared this Flemish beer to the great pinor noirs of Burgundy, but that reference was so effective that it has continued to be used to describe this most unusual beer.


Red Flemish Ale, of which Rodenbach is one of the most famous producers, is characterized by a long maturation in large wooden barrels, called foeders in which the dark amber beer undergoes acetic fermentation that gives it its trademark acidity and also greatly extends its lifespan.

This way of working probably took root in Belgium after the Flemish brewers had visited London where the same method was used to make porter, one of the most popular styles between the 18th and 19th centuries.

The technique of putting dark beer in wooden barrels to age and develop acidic notes that English producers had used in order to facilitate the preservation of the beer – a lower pH level allows the beer to keep for longer – and to soften the intense toasted notes that roasted malt brings. Once again, it is from the English brewers that the habit of mixing the youngest and sweetest beers with those that have already aged and acidified, in order to obtain a final product that offers a perfect equilibrium between sweetness and acidity.


The Rodenbach brewery continues its centuries-old tradition of producing beer using these methods.

Photo: Rodenbach Beer

Visiting the cellar of this historic Belgian production site means going on a journey through the history of beer. The barrels used are decades old and each contributes to the different notes that the brewer must mix to create the most balanced product possible.

During the workshop Mixed Fermentation: the sour beers of Flanders, we’ll discover the secrets of this fascinating style together with Rodenbach brewer Rudy Ghequire. It will be a truly special guided tasting through the Flemish brewing panorama.


We’ll taste:

  • Rodenbach Classic
  • Rodenbach Gran Cru
  • Rodenbach Alexander
  • Rodenbach Vintage

by Eugenio Signoroni, e.signoroni@slowfood.it