Belgian Brewmaster Comes to the Buckeye State

“It’s the missing link between beer and wine,” Rudi Ghequire, brewmaster of the famed Rodenbach Brewery in Roeselare, Belgium, told an enthusiastic gathering at the Winking Lizard’s Party Center in Bedford Heights on October 17. Ghequire came to Ohio for the

8th annual Cleveland Beer Week – likely due to his respect for John Lane, a principal in Winking Lizard (WL) restaurants and the Northeast Ohio beer guru who started WL’s World Tour of Beers almost 30 years ago.

The “Rodenbach & Rudi” event drew industry professionals from across the region to hear this master brewer (and sommelier) talk about Rodenbach’s unique approach to making their distinctive brand of sour beer. It starts with foeders (large wooden casks) made by the firm’s own coopers. The process is then guided by three centuries of tradition brewing sour beers (the brewery was founded in 1821) and perfected under the supervision of Roeselare native Rudi, who’s been working there since 1982.

While beer geeks enjoyed hearing technical information regarding pH levels (acidity to alkaline range), the rest of us were content to sample Rodenbach, Grand Cru and their 2010 Vintage Oak Aged Ale. The palate-cleansing Grand Cru proffered aromas of sour cherries and vinegar plus green apples. Ghequire suggests pairing Grand Cru with grilled meats with lots of herbs and spices or fatty cheeses. “The Grand Cru will absorb the fat from the cheeses,” he quipped. Good to know the next time a physician suggests medication to lower my cholesterol.

The 2010 Vintage explains why Belgians call Rodenbach the Champagne of beers. “It’s a very special Grand Cru made from the best vat we had in 2010,” Rudi explained while the assembled group inhaled scents of tart cherries and oaky wood. “This one’s less aggressive and also has green apple aromas.” Due to fall allergies I never picked up on the apples. Instead, I took a sip of the 2010 and mingled it with fatty charcuterie and beer-infused cheese. It created an ideal balance between acid and fat and as if my palate took a quick trip to a European biergarten on a lovely autumn afternoon.

Like many in the profession, Rudi is an approachable beer maker. He’s proud of his products and the venerable brewery where he works. If you share your enthusiasm for Rodenbach with him, Rudi may well invite you to visit the brewery the next time you’re in Belgium on a sudsy pilgrimage. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself inspecting the vat that once held the 2010 Vintage before it moved to their foeders for two years in French oak.

See www.clevelandbeerweek.org for information about Cleveland Beer Week and www.rodenbach.be for more information about the brewery.

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