Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A new draft-only beer from Ommegang: Ommegang Rouge

By William Brand
Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 1:50 pm in Uncategorized.

Coming to a pub near you next week…Ommegang Rouge. According to Ommegang Bay Area rep Joshua Charlton, the beer’s a traditional Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale, made in Belgium by Brewery Bockor, a family-owned West Flanders brewery, which makes a variety of spontaneously fermented beers. The beer was brewed by Bockor under supervision of Ommegang brewmaster Phil Leinhart. It was spontaneously fermented, using wild yeast from the air settling on the wort in an open “coolship”, then aged for 18 months in French Oak tuns.

Sounds interesting indeed. Checked all the usual beer rating sites and found opinions about other Bockor beers all over the map, plus and minus. The Oxford Bottled Beer Database, an English site, likes a couple of Bockor beers, including Jacobins Gueuze Lambic, which they rated as somewhere between the very best and the ordinary (I’m paraphrasing here.) Tim Webb in Good Beer Guide to Belgium gives Bocker beers two and three stars. He notes the coolship and says they some large, wooden tuns. He wonders why they’re aren’t put to use to make great beer.

Perhaps, with the encouragement of Ommegang’s Leinhart they have. Or maybe they already do and the guide needs updating, although the beer rating posts seem not to have detected any vary changes.

The seminal West Flanders red ale, by the way, is Rodenbach Grand Cru, which can be found in bottles and on tap around Northern California after a long absence. Rodenbach, which is owned by Palm, a large Belgian brewer, on July 22 changed importers from Ommegang. Is this the reason for Ommegang Rouge? Who knows. From the press release:

Latis Imports, founded by two former InBev executives David van Wees and Anthony Giardina, is growing its Belgian portfolio with an announcement today that it will gain import rights to the coveted RODENBACH brand. The company will also have import rights to RODENBACH Grand Cru and 2004 Vin de Cereale, a limited run, high-end sour beer.

Word is, we’ll still get plenty of Rodenbach Grand Cru here. Never tried Vin de Cereale, sounds damned interesting. The regular Rodenbach is much diminished from years past, when Rodenbach was independent. That’s my opinion, of course.

While we’re on sour Belgian beers, two more Flanders sours that I really like are Duchesse De Bourgogne (Duchess of Burgundy) from Verheghe and Petrus Aged Pale from Bavik.

Where to find them? On tap or in bottles usually at The Trappist, Oakland, City Beer Store and the Toronado, San Francisco. Also Monk’s Kettle and La Trappe in San Francisco. Over the last few years I’ve developed a list of great Bay Area pubs and retail beer stores. Two lists. Shoot me an e-mail at and I’ll send them to you.

Let me open this conversation. Do you like/hate Belgian and American Belgian-style sours? Favorites? Absolutely dogs? Post a comment. Have a good weekend all.

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  • danny

    I’ve learned to love the sours and now seek them out when I can. but I usually can only drink 1-2 a night.

    also: tonight is the last night for the Linden street friday thing. at least for a bit. I’ll be there.

  • Nathan Smith

    Sours can be some of the most refreshing beers in the world. Nice tart, dry finish. Like a good dry Tripel or IPA, it begs for another sip.

    Cantillon Bruocsella is wonderful, nice straight lambic with no carbonation. It really changes the mouthfeel and finish. Compare with a good bottle of Cantillon Iris in the same sitting.

    Rodenbach Classic and Grand Cru. Wonderfully refreshing complexity with a little sweet and a little sour, a little brett, a little acetic. Sorry to see these drifting away again for a while because of distribution problems. Classic is sold in cans in Belgium. If I’m ever stuck in a train station in Belgium, I’m going to go looking for cans of Rodenbach to kill the time..

    For the American take on these things it’s hard to beat Russian River Supplication. La Roja from Jully Pumpkins is a nice twist on a Flanders Red.

    And then there’s the awesome lactic refreshing Schultheiss Berliner Weisse. Who says all Germans make are lagers?

  • William Brand

    Great commons Nathan. Personally, I find the Cantillon beers just a bit too aggressively sour. Sometimes, I really like them, other times I’m honestly not sure. But the brewer who keeps that place going is a beer saint and I;m an American unfortunately raised on Coca Cola.

    About Roudenbach, I understand that the new importers are serious about keeping the supply lines open. The trick, of course, is an import rep in our area, who cares about the beer and can talk it up to distributors and pubs. And people like you and I. We do have influence. Pub owners and proprietors at good beer stores do listen. Especially, if they try what we suggest and like it.

    I truly love both Supplication and La Roja. I spent a happy hour at the GABF in Denver last year at the Jolly Pumpkin booth. They had an amazing assortment of sour beers.

    I’ve been hitting German restaurants recently lookkng for Berliner Weisse, haven’t tried it in a few years. So far, no luck. Apparently the sole Weisse imported, I believe it’s Schluheiss, is not coming into the U.S. at this moment. At least thats what the manager at Suppenkuche in San Francisaco told me a couple of week ago.