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Monk's Café Sour Flemish Ale

Judges Rating: 
23 / 24
6 / 6
39 / 40
9 / 10
Overall Impression: 
18 / 20

Philadelphia’s Monk’s Café is one of America’s iconic pubs, considered one of the great Belgian beer destinations on this side of the Atlantic. Proprietor Tom Peters has contracted with Brouwerij Van Steenberge to produce Monk’s Café Sour Flemish Ale, a sweet/sour Flanders-style brown ale. Rife with notes of sour cherry and luscious caramel, the aroma is classic Oud Bruin. Pete was a bit taken aback by the upfront acetic tang, likening it to “finely aged Modena balamico,” but felt the underlying malt sweetness and plum notes help to balance the nose. Pouring a deep, saturated brown and showing flashes of ruby along its edges, this beer is topped by a persistent creamy, tan-colored head. With this beer, as goes the aroma, so goes the flavor. Gobs of Montmorency cherries, warm toasty malt, and a pronounced underlying sourness dominate, yet no component overpowers in this exceptionally balanced brew. The deft interplay of “flavors of sweetish young beer overlaid on aged sour beer” and a quenching, slight dry-ish finish really impressed Tim, who pronounced it “classically inspired Old World Flemish ale.” Tom, too, enjoyed the puckering sourness, but found it tended to be lactic, leaving him wanting a bit more “crisp, lightly vinegary” element that helps define the style. With limited distribution, Monk’s Café Sour Flemish Ale presents the perfect excuse for an impromptu trip to visit Philadelphia and the café.