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Lambickx

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Hardcore lambic nerdery incoming. Take cover! So there have been some attempts to classify the different styles of lambic. The most common is to separate Gueuze (blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambic), fruited lambic (exactly what it sounds like), and unblended lambic (lambic that is not part of a gueuze blend or fruited lambic, and is usually near still or flat).

As it turns out, the usage of "unblended" is mildly inaccurate, but persists due to its widespread usage in English-speaking publications (N.B. this includes writings from Michael Jackson and other highly respected authors, so this isn't meant as a slight). While "unblended" lambic does exist, it seems to be rare. Most beers categorized as such, like Cantillon's Grand Cru Bruocsella or De Cam's Oude Lambiek, are actually blends of various old lambics. Since they are all older lambics, they still don't qualify as gueuze (which is a blend of old and young) and they don't experience any refermentation in the bottle and thus lack carbonation. Locals in lambic regions tend to refer to these beers as simply young or old lambics (The terms "jonge" and "oude" in Dutch and "jeune" and "vieux" in French translate to "young" and "old" respectively).

I have, of course, been guilty of using "unblended" in the past. Frankly, it's never been my favorite approach to lambic. I tend to be sensitive to carbonation issues and thus haven't been in love with the few examples I managed to snag. That said, I'm told that this approach does allow you to get closer to a given brewery's "house character" than a gueuze, and with this Lambickx offering sourced from De Troch, I think I may be catching on to the style.

This is all well and good, but it would be nice to know the carbonation state before opening a bottle and just calling something "lambic" seems like too big of an umbrella term for that. Maybe instead of "Unblended" you could use "Still" or "Pure" or "Straight" (all of which I've seen used in differing capacities). I mean, I knew what I was in for when I popped the cork on this bottle, but from the label alone one could easily assume it would be carbonated (like most other lambic or beer). Regardless, as hinted at above, I ended up enjoying this much more than I would have thought. Then again, that very "pure" nature of this offering also leads to more variability, so maybe I just got a particularly good bottle. Or maybe Vanberg & DeWulf's barrel selection is just on point.

Lambickx De Troch

Lambickx De Troch 2012-2014 - Pours a honey gold color, no head, no carbonation. Smells great, light funkiness, tart fruit, sour twang. Tastes quite nice, sweet, nice tart fruit character, a little oak, moderate to low sourness, very well balanced. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, still (no real carbonation), moderate to low acidity, again very well balanced. Overall, this is much better than I was expecting. I've not been particularly enamored with unblended lambics in the past, but this is quite nice. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5.75% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/6/16. Brew Year: 2012. Bottle Year: 2014. Number of Bottles: 2667. Source: De Troch. Barrel Type: 600 liter French Oak.

So I may have to snag some more Lambickx vintages and variants, maybe even age some further. Other Still Lambics might get on my radar as well. Funnily enough, while I have a category for Gueuze, I pretty much put everything else in a generic Lambic category. Now that I've got a couple of these Pure Lambics, I should probably

Lambickx Kriek

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Vanberg & DeWulf is an importer with a long history of bringing Belgian beer to America, even back in the Dark Ages of U.S. beer in the 1980s. At various times, they handled the likes of Duvel, Rodenbach, and Boon, but those operations eventually outgrew Vanberg & DeWulf's small-scale focus. These days, they're probably best known as the importers of Brasserie Dupont and, for you lambic dorks out there, Geuzestekkerij DeCam. They also seem to have good relationships with Oud Beersel, De Troch, and Boon, sometimes importing one-offs or oddball lines like the Bzart series of champagne/lambic hybrids.

I'm not huge into the business side of beer, but one aspect that does interest me a bit is the sort of strange commodity market that has evolved around lambic. This sort of thing seems to happen more often with aged booze, and given the 3 year lead time for a good Gueuze (typically a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambic) it seems to be present in Belgium. Granted, it's probably not as widespread as NDP bourbon and Scotch houses, but there's a few blenderies that don't actually make the beer, but rather just age and blend it. And they're not scrubs either; Tilquin has quickly become a Kaedrin favorite, for instance. This is also how you end up with all those weird mad scientist blends that we've been covering lately.

Anyway, Vanberg & DeWulf's founder Don Feinberg used his connections in the lambic world to purchase his own lambic reserves and bottle his own selections under a the Lambickx brand. Some of these have clear provenance (usually an unblended DeTroch lambic), but others label the source as the cryptic "Private Domain". Vanberg's website says they're from De Troch and Oud Beersal, but other sources claim Boon is also involved. What we have here is actually the Kriek, two year old lambic with cherries added (actual fruit, none of that syrupy, artificial adjunct gunk they put in the cheap fruited lambics). It hails from that ever-mysterious Private Domain, but it's actually one of the better fruited lambics I've had outside of the big boys (i.e. Cantillon and 3F). I've always been scared away from the regular Lambickx offerings because they're unblended and nearly still, and I have this thing about carbonation and whatnot, but this one is actually pretty well carbonated. Let's take a closer look:

Lambickx Kriek

Vanberg & DeWulf Lambickx Kriek - Pours a striking clear red, so many robey tones bro, with avery pretty finger of pink head that sticks around for a bit. Smells nice, lots of sour cherry and some earthy funk, maybe some hints of oak. Taste is very sweet, lots of cherries up front, buttressed by oak and earthy funk in the middle, ending back on cherry character, more syrupy this time, in the finish. Mouthfeel is well carbonated, medium bodied, lightly acidic, with just a hint of syrupy character but then, it kinda dries out in the finish. Overall, this is an excellent Kriek, one of the better ones that I've snagged off of a shelf. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 4/9/16. Batch 2. Brew Year: 2012. Bottle Year: 2014. Number of Bottles: 9867. Region: Zenne Valley. Source: Private Domain. Barrel Type: 650 liter, Oak and Chestnut.

This was good enough that I'd like to snag another sometime and age it, see if that funk blossoms over time. Someday, I'm sure I'll take a flier on regular Lambickx, despite the supposed lack of carbonation. In the meantime, I've got a couple other Kriek lambic reviews coming your way, so stay tuned.

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