Monday, 3 August 2020

Beer of the Week

Brouwerij De Ranke Complexité

The bilingual heading here reflects both the origins of this beer and the slightly split personality of the brewery itself.

The Flemish-sounding Brouwerij De Ranke is in fact located at Dottignies, in the French-speaking Belgian province of Hainaut (possibly the spiritual home of modern-day saisons, but that's another story). It started in 2005 and was set up by Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos (who sound neither Flemish nor Wallonian) and since then has quietly made its mark as one of the best breweries in Belgium. Although, like others who quietly go about pursuing excellence, De Ranke has largely remained below the radar of the international craft beer geekerati. Which is no bad thing, to be honest.

All their beers have a touch of class. The dry Saison de Dottignies (5.5%) is a classic of the style, Noir de Dottigines (9%) is a hoppy Belgian porter while Père Noël (7%) combines festive strength with restrained but balancing bitterness.

There's also an entertaining line of accomplished sour beers, all of which only appear in 75cl bottles (which is very Wallonian). Cuvée De Ranke (7%) is a blend of a stock blond ale with lambic, while Kriek de Ranke (7%) is similar with cherries. In recent years the brewery has released Vielle Provision, which, or so I was told, is the neat version of the stock ale that goes to make Cuvée.  They've dabbled in lambic production too, with the release of Mirakel (5.5%) a gueuze-like blend of two Payottenland lambics and their own Spierelambiek, named after a small river running near the brewery. Another recent release has been Wijnberg (5.8%), their take on a Flemish Oud Bruin.

So far, so Belgian. However....

As the Good Beer Guide Belgium will tell you, De Ranke pioneered the use of hops in Belgian brewing - that is to say, they were the first to produce beers with a notable hop profile. They did, and do, this using locally grown hops, and using only whole hop cones. Early stand-outs, which are still with us today, were the elegant XX Bitter (6%) and the herbal hop-tangy tripel-esque Guldenberg (8.5% but doesn't really show it). Over the years this side of things has been extended to include the sessionable (not a Kölsch) Simplex (4.5%), the softer and fuller XXX Bitter (6%) and the annual Hop Harvest (6%) using freshly harvested green hops.


Which leads us, to Complexité. This was launched early last year and is a collaboration with Canadian (well, Quebecois) Brasserie Dunham , which was founded in 2011 and since when has produced a large number of beers  (there are no fewer than 359 entries on the RateBeer website). I don't know how it all came about but the end result is a deliciously impressive American IPA with a Belgian accent. It's a drinkable 6%, and combines (Belgian-grown!) Cascade and Centennial hops in a masterclass of how to use them with the Centennial providing a firm underpinning bitterness.  The Cascade was also used to generously dry-hop the beer although my bottle was perhaps a year old so some of the fresh aroma may have dissipated.

Like many of the De Ranke specials, this only came in 75cl bottles but good news! The beer has now been taken into the permanent range as Amer Amer - and is available not only in 33cl bottle but also 20l kegs so this is one I'll certainly be looking out for on tap when I'm next in Belgium.



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