They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pucker Up!

Lambic is a rather strange but very interesting style of beer. It's one I've loved from my first, through the whole range that Lambic has to offer. Certain styles within the Lambic family can have that effect on people, I'm sure you can think of a few stories. I think it's a good time to put a post up about them as they go so well with this warm kind of weather.

Lambic is old school beer. The only real difference is how it's made. The style probably originated before the 1400's (and was probably very common until pasteurization was brought in around 1860), and it was only until the late 60's early 70's that the Belgian Royal Decrees actually put a label on what actually went into a Lambic. It was a beer which had to contain 30% unmalted wheat, a gravity of no less than 11 plato (1044), and must be spontaneously fermented with a certain level of acidity to it.

The beer is not produced under controlled methods like most beer today. It's made using wild airborne yeast which creates the spontaneous fermentation, which more often than not, float in and around the brewery looking for sugars to gobble up. Brettanomyces was one of these typical wild yeasts which brewers are really coming around to nowadays with the certain types of flavours they produce. After fermentation the beer will usually go into large wooden barrels to age for up to one, two or three years. It is then the arduous task of the head brewer to decide which of these beers to blend together to make a finished product.

Gueuze is my favourite style of Lambic (spelling the thing is only made harder by the fact that not all breweries spell it the same!)

"Lambic is white wine, while Gueuze is a champagne" - Jean Van Roy - Cantillon head brewer.

Gueuze is the top of the charts when it comes to Lambic for most. It's usually the best that a brewer will produce, being made from a blend of sometimes three or more different old and young Lambics. Say a brewer uses a blend of a one year old, a two year old and a three year old barrel. The yeasts in the youngest barrel with create a frenzied fermentation with the older samples to create an amazing beer which we know as Gueuze. All Lambics, especially Gueuze will undergo further fermentation when put into the bottle.... fermentation which can make the beer taste better and better over a period of over 20 years!

Geuze Boon (note the spelling?) Is the Geuze produced by Frank Boon, a master of the art of letting yeast get on with the job. Like all Geuze beers this one has a large sour effect to it, that's because the yeast has done a pretty good job of eating up all the sugars in the beer. It's not as extreme as some of the Geuze beers which can come from breweries like Cantillon, so it's a great introducer to the extreme style. It has a great earthy dryness, matched only by the big sour lemon flavour. There's a big fresh cut grass/dry straw flavour too which is quite typical of beers using wild yeasts. Dry, carbonated and very refreshing on a hot day. The first time I ever tried a Gueuze I can remember thinking "this tastes like sour lemon sweets!" - I've loved it ever since.

Lambic. Definitely a style I'd recommend you get into. If sour is not your style then look for any Faro beers. These are made by adding sugars to make them sweeter.

Notes: This post would not have been possible without researching the style from two books: Ben McFarland's World's Best Beers
        & Michael Jackson's Beer Companion
- Two epic books from two awesome men of beer.

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