Ichtegem's Grand Cru (ABV 6.5%) from Brouwerij Strubbe is a Flemish red ale. This unique style of beer is brewed as two separate beers that are carefully blended to form the final product. One beer is brewed to be aged in oak Bordeaux barrels for two years, where exposure to oxygen, the wood of the barrels, and naturally occurring microflora alter its flavor, making it dry and sharp with an acidic tang. A sweet young beer is then used to balance the blend to the brewer's specifications. The base beers are both special brews destined for blend only. The aged beer is too acidic to drink by itself, while the young beer is too sweet and without "special" character. Each barrel is tasted and blended, taking into account the acidity of the aged ale, and the taste and "mood" of the brewmaster. The ratio averages about 60% old and 40% young beer.
The Ichtegem's Grand Cru is nutty and malty, but has a subtle dark cherry tang that balances it beautifully.
Brouwerij Strubbe has remained family owned for six generations, since Carolus Strubbe established it in the town of Ichtegem in the 1830s. Like many Belgian brewers in the early to mid-20th century, they responded to popular taste by shifting production from ales to lagers. Nevertheless, they continued to produce their traditional sour beer which remained popular even as the lagers did not bring the profit they'd hoped for. This sour ale, after some reformulation and improvement, became the Strubbes Bruin in 1982. The Strubbes Bruin was further refined to create Ichtegem's Grand Cru, which thus has a lineage leading back to the brewery's founding.