I recently saw a cheese named Delice de Bourgogne at my local grocery store. Of course for a beer geek there is only one iconic “de Bourgogne,” the Flanders Red, Duchesse de Bourgogne. I decided to test out the idea that products with similar names will pair well together by tasting this Belgian beer with a couple cheeses.
Duchesse de Bourgogne is a Flanders red ale brewed by a small family-owned brewery called Brewery Verhaeghe Vichte. The family has passed down the brewery through four generations of Verhaeghes running its operations. Today Karl Verhaeghe is the brewmaster.
All this to say, Duchesse is brewed in the traditional Flanders style with a recipe passed down from father to son. To make a Flanders Red, young ale is blended with a spontaneously fermented beer. After blending, that ale ages in massive oak foeders.
Overall the beer is lightly fruity with a base of figgy-dark Belgian malt, a zip of acidity, and a solid note of vinegar (acetic acid) that is characterful of the style. The longer the Duchesse is in the bottle the more the balance of the beer leans sharp and vinegar-y. The bottle I’m pairing with was somewhere in the middle, the vinegar was getting strong, but it still wasn’t unpleasant to drink.
The Plate to Pair with Flanders Red
Delice de Bourgogne Triple Creme – This triple cream from Fromagerie Lincet is different than other young bries because of its solid, slightly funky bloomy rind. It has the texture of a freshly whipped cream cheese because it is made by whipping together creme fraiche and full fat milk. The super light cream, melt in your mouth texture, and buttery yet slightly earthy flavor come together really nicely.
Onetik Tomme Pur Chevre – a three-month aged goat cheese with a semi-solid texture. The aging mellows the tangy flavors of a typical goat cheese leaving this one to taste like fresh hay and a touch of rich cream.
Aged Capicola – A more intense and gamey flavor than prosciutto with plenty of fat and subtle smokey notes.
Dried Cranberries – A touch of acid and plenty of sweetness, I always like to have these around when I need to balance something too bitter or sweet.
Four Berry Jam – This jam is by far my favorite from Bonne Maman. The four berries in this jam are strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and red currants. The strawberries and cherries keep the balance from being too sour while the raspberries keep it bright and punchy.
Cornichons – A little crunch, a little tang, these tiny pickles go especially well with fatty capicola.
Almond Thins – My go-to pairing cracker, not flavorless but not distracting. They provide a hint of nuttiness and a touch of salt.
The Pairings with Flanders Red Ale
Trying Flanders Red with Brie and Berry Jam
The first cracker is simply the brie and a smear of four berry jam. Over all the balance is sweet and tangy with a nice creamy mouthfeel.
Why the pairing might work
This cracker lets the fruit shine forward in the jam. A more standard softer-rind triple cream brie might not have the intensity to match a complex beer like a Flanders red but the mushroom-y funk and touch of age on this one gives it the weight it needs. The cheese reads as sweet when paired with the jam but nothing feels too heavy. The acid in this beer might be tamed by the creamy cheese and the jam might pull forward the fruity flavors.
Trying Flanders Red with Capicola, Goat Cheese, and Cranberry
This one uses aged capicola which has a slightly gamey, funky flavor. The farm-y aged goat cheese builds on that funk meat. Then the cranberry adds a pop of sweetness to keep this cracker from tasting too earthy.
Why the pairing might work
This might bring forward some other fermentation dimensions in the beer. Since the most powerful fermentation-derived note is acetic, adding some funky flavor from meat and cheese may help the beer to read as more complex.
The Winning Flanders Red Pairing
The brie and jam cracker wins the prize for the “best pairing I’ve made yet” with a Flanders Red. (Hey…I’m starting to get good at this!!) It’s one of the few truly transformative beer pairings I’ve had. Pairings like this make me think, “Hey all this pairing stuff really does do something!”
Alone the cracker reads almost like dessert and the beer is sharply sour together, the beer becomes smoother and fruity. Is that…..blueberry I’m tasting in there?! The cracker gets less sweet and more buttery and luxurious. Wow! What a combo – if you can find this cheese I would recommend it, but if you can combine it with some jam and a Flanders red, it’s totally worth the investment! I would love to try this pairing with other Flanders like Rodenbach and Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge.