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Posts Tagged ‘lambic’

Lunch in Brussels meant cured meat, cheese and bread – and a beer tasting. While the two Moeder Lambic bars have established themselves as cornerstones on the Brussels beer scene, this is the first time I have visited any of them. Easy to find, minutes away from the main attractions for the tourist and strategically located if you are in town for business. Business usually meaning government.

We enjoyed a conversation with  Jean Hummler, one of the two owners of the company since 2006. With great passion he gave us samples of some of his beers while talking about his philosophy about beer (and food).

Their focus is on Belgian beer, but not exclusively so. Among the 150 Belgian breweries, there are 15 outstanding, according to Jean. When he considers which beers to order, he considers both taste and how the beers are made. Freshness is the imperative word, and the taps and the temperature control makes sure the quality is as good as it gets.

There is a broad range of customers in the bar, an estimate is 60 per cent local, the rest expats and tourists. Most are in the 25-25 age range, but there are also students saving up to drink the best beers they can get.

There is no best beer in the  world, says Jean, but there is one that is best for my palate.

Among the beers we got to sample were an Oud Bruin from Verzet, less sweet than others of the same style, and a very interesting brewery to follow.

Cuvee de Ranke is a blend using sour beer from De Ranke blended with Girardin lambic. The lambic has consumed the sugars from the other beer, but it still has a hop profile that is is more prominent.

This is a bar, not a restaurant, but there is excellent cheese, salami etc if you cannot tear yourself away.

Endless rows of beers on tap, bottles in the fridge, too. Not exclusively Belgian, we even got to try a fresh pale ale from Kernel while we were there. But the imports also have to live up to the demands for freshness that they set for the national beers.

Check out their website for a list of the current beers on tap. You will not regret a visit.

 

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Maturing bottles

For the years to come

On arrival in Brussels, I met most of my fellow travellers at the Cantillion brewery. We were not given any special tour, and I will not  waste your time retelling the information in their brochures. But if your are seriously interested in beer, this is a place you need to visit once. It is a living brewery museum, where lambic, the spontaneously fermented beer of the Brussels region, is brewed the way it used to be. If you want to see the active process, you need to turn up during the winter, as this beer can not be brewed during the warm months. There are open brewing days when you can participate more actively, too. Check their web site for details.

After finishing your trip, taking in the aromas of the beer alchemy taking place in the oak casks, there are two beer samples waiting for you. But there are also some special bottles you are unlikely to find anywhere else. We shared a bottle of the Zwanze 2012 Geuze with rhubarb. A fresh, well-balanced geuze with a hint of sweetness. Some rhubarb in this blend, but, while there is some fruitiness, it is impossible to detect any particular flavour from that.

Since my last visit – about seven years ago, I suppose, they have rearranged the reception area, expanding the shop and adding a sit down bar area. There used to be just a very basic counter and a few empty barrels, now there’s a lot of blond wood and a place where you could actually hang out and sample some beers.

But that was not for us. We had places to go. Many places.

Cantillon glasses

As real as they come

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A nap on the plane, a coffee on the train, ready for some sponanous fermentation. First stop of the Grand Tour of Belgium: Brasserie Cantillon.

As they say on their web site: A time machine. Back to beers from another age. Saved from extinction by a handful of enthusiasts. A museum, but a living, working museum.

We share a bottle of Swanze 2012, if there were rhubarbs involved in this they are hard to detect now.

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In addition to visiting two lambic breweries, Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen,  our visit to Belgium also incluces a beer festival for hardcore fans of spontanously fermented beers. The Night of The Great Thist takes place in the tiny village of Eizeringen, organized by the Geuze Society. As you can see, there is even an American brewery on the list. But they are owned by Belgians, I believe.

The problem will be how to pick just a few of these in the time available. The preliminary list:

Boon (Lembeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze
Geuze Mariage Parfait 2009
Kriek
Oude Kriek
Kriek Mariage Parfait 2009

Geuzestekerij De Cam (Gooik)
Oude kriek

Brouwerij Cantillon (Anderlecht)
Gueuze
Kriek
Vigneronne
Saint-Lamvinus
Rosé de Gambrinus
Lambic Bruocsella

De Troch (Wambeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze
Kriek
Framboise

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen (Beersel)
Oude Geuze
Oude Gueuze Vintage
Oude Kriek
Schaarbeekse kriek 2005

Brouwerij Girardin (Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle)
Oude Lambiek
Kriekenlambiek
Gueuze
Kriek
Faro
Framboise

Geuzestekerij Hanssens Artisanaal (Dworp)
Oude gueuze
Oude kriek
Oudbeitje

Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lambikbieren
HORAL Megablend 2013

Brouwerij Lindemans (Vlezenbeek)
Oude Lambiek
Apple
Faro
Framboise
Kriek
Pêcheresse
Oude Kriek Cuvée Rene
Oude Gueuze Cuvée Rene

Moriau (Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)
Oude Geuze

Brouwerij Mort Subite (Kobbegem)
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek Oogst

Brouwerij Oud Beersel (Beersel)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek
Framboise

Gueuzerie Tilquin (Bierghes)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Quetsche

Brouwerij Timmermans (Itterbeek)

Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek
Geuze
Kriek
Lambicus

Allagash Brewery (Portland, Maine USA)
Coolship Resurgam (assemblage van twee spontane gistingsbieren van twee verschillende jaren)
Coolship Red (bier van spontane gisting waaraan frambozen werden toegevoegd)
Coolship Cerise (bier van spontane gisting waaraan krieken werden toegevoegd)

 

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I don’t know how long the good people over at mo’time will keep my inactive old blog up, so I’ll republish a few of the best posts of 2007 here. I haven’t found a clever way to migrate the whole blog. The first offering is from the end of February:

This micro brewery in Brussels also functions as a museum for lambic brewing and has a tasting room for its products.  Both Cantillon and the lambic beers are covered extensively in any guide to the beer styles of the world, so I’ll just give you some personal impressions.

The concept is simple – you turn up at the brewery, enter and pay a 4 Euro entrance fee. You then get a leaflet explaining the brewing process, and you are free to wander around as long as you like. The start of the brewing process is like in any brewery, the difference comes at the point where you’d usually add the yeast. The lambic beers use spontaneous fermentation, which means that no yeast is added. Instead they expose the cooling wort to the open air, and yeast spores then, like Tinker Bell, come dancing on the breeze and settle in the beer. Theses spores could be anywhere in the environment, so they have to be extra careful when doing any alterations to the building. And they leave cobwebs and dust in some corner – the food control authorities are not too happy about that!

After the wild yeast has started to do its job, it’s time to fill the lambic into oak barrels, which, for the first three or four days, are overflowing with foam. After this has died down, a slow fermentation starts in the barrels, and this can go on for years.

Some of the lambic is bottled as geuze, some has fruit – cherries, raspberries or grapes – added in the process. At the end, a mix of new and old beers (up to three years in the cask) is bottled and sent to the market.

When you walk through this shrine to old fashioned brewing, you have the smell of beer evaporating everywhere, from open vessels and from barrels of various vintages. The strong smells tells you that this is a rather more expensive way of brewing than in large plants where everything is hermetically sealed to make sure you can bottle every drop.

And at the end you get to taste two or three varieties. The Geuze is a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics. It is more sour than bitter, with a lot of acid. You have no feeling of the malt or hops, it is a cider-like beverage, but extremely dry.

The Lou Pepe Kriek is their premium brand of cherry lambic. It is very smooth, with the cherries adding a new dimension. A little sweetness in the finish, but the sourness lingers, too. Very refreshing.

The last beer I tried was their Faro. This is lambic where they have added caramel and candy sugar. The yeast is still so potent that this will only keep for a few weeks. This was very sweet, had a peach-like fruitiness, but with the sourness underneath. A bit too syrupy for me, more interesting than outstanding. I guess that this was the form they drank much of the lambic in the old days, adding sugar as it suited the customers of a particular cafe.

You can get Cantillon lambics all over the world, and they even make special beers for other countries, with additions like blueberries and cloud berries.

If you want to really explore the world of beers, this is a family of beer styles you need to look into. Be warned, though, the sourness is not to every one’s liking.

I raise my glass to the enthusiasts who keep this running, keep it open to the public, and even sell their beers at a very nice price to people dropping by.

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