I recently had a conversation with Joe, a fellow beer geek (yeah, I'm a bit of a beer geek, dork, snob, nerd; choose your label, I just really dig beer) and author of Thirsty Pilgrim (go on, check it out!) about one of our mutually-favorite Belgian beers: Rodenbach Grand Cru. This is a fantastic tipple with a deep amber/brown color, fruity-oaky aroma, mild bitterness, malty-sweet and characteristic sourness on the pallet. It's this sourness that generally puts people off.
It's strange that this beer is pretty readily available, yet I haven't met a single Belgian who actually likes it. I know they must be out there. There was a time not long ago when the non-grand cru version (sweeter, less sour) was enjoyed by many, often with a shot of grenadine added. Maybe these people grew up along with their taste buds and enjoy the occasional Rodenbach Grand Cru when they want a hit of nostalgia. They just haven't revealed themselves to me.
Now back to that conversation among beer geeks... besides just drinking beer, we both really enjoy pairing food with beer (or vice-versa). That's how the subject of the Rodenbach Grand Cru was brought up. It's an extremely difficult beer to pair with food. I would usually drink it on its own on a warm summer's day, as it is a highly refreshing beer. It was on a recent warm-ish autumn afternoon when I decided to quench my thirst with a Rodenbach Grand Cru. I was also a little bit hungry, so I grabbed a bag of Hot Sweet Chilli Crac-A-Nuts (Crac-A-Nuts - a worthy subject on its own). Time froze and a glow from the heavens fell upon me. Thai food! Of course! The Rodenbach perfectly complements the florally-sweet/sourness of the tamarind and lime flavors while the beer's slightly roasted malty sweetness cuts through the fiery spice. I think Pad-Thai would be a perfect dish, especially with shrimp (Joe likes his Rodenbach with shrimp). I made a stir-fry seasoned with tom-yum paste that worked extremely well with the beer.
I can no longer imagine Thai food or Rodenbach Grand Cru on their own. To me, they should be enjoyed together. It's a good thing there are plenty of very good Thai restaurants in the Brussels area.