photo: Richard Harris
When Van Honsebrouck Brewery
released Kasteel Rouge last year I didn't try it. I'm a big fan of the existing Kasteels, the Donker and the Tripel. They are, as beer supermaven Michael Jackson (not the American singer) wrote, "very strong and immensely rich beer(s)." He goes on to say that the Donker "in palate, it has a smooth, toffee-ish start; a deep rounded fruitiness; and winey, Port-like notes in the finish." At 11%, all that taste makes it very drinkable, which is dangerous since before you know it you can be stinkin' drunk. So, in my mind, adding cherry to it and reducing the alcohol to 8% sounded unnecessary and possibly negative. Also, cherry beer, once exclusively made with lambic and very tart, is now made by a number of brewers and many of the new ones, including some lambics, are very sweet.
Recently Beer Man, in his weekly column picked up by USA Today, gave the beer a very enthusiastic review.
In particular this sentence "I had no problem wrapping my taste buds around the cherry liqueur content -- there are plenty of excellent cherry lambics and other ales from Belgium, and none of them have the flavor profile of Rouge" sparked my interest. So I bought two and tried the beer.
My verdict? The cherry liqueur they use overpowers everything else. I'd rather sit down to an Oude Kriek from Oud Beersel Brewery,
which is "an artisanal product, made from real cherries and Oud Beersel lambic matured in old barrels. They are slowly absorbed into the lambic, which develops a fruity character and a ruby red colour. It is unique of its type in that it contains around 400 grams of cherries per litre. Oud Beersel Oude Kriek has no added sugar and contains no artificial flavourings or preservatives."