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Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

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Another entry in Boon's Mono Blend series, kinda like a singe barrel offering, only it's got a touch of young lambic blended in for bottle conditioning. Still, it's an interesting series of beers. Vat 77 consisted of 2 year old lambic and was very earthy and minerally, but here we have Vat 79. It's the oldest foeder at the brewery, dating back to 1883. In addition, according to the brewery:

So old that we do not know. The oak comes from oak trees that are almost 250 years old, which means your lambic is matured with trees planted between 1670 and 1680.
Sploosh. Rumor has it that Vat 79 is mostly used as a component for the Mariage Parfait blends (which are mostly 3 year old lambic).

An anecdote from an old brewery webpage: An American lady that tasted lambic from the No. 79 cask said it was "Boon to be Wild". Well that sounds good to me, let's dive in:

Boon Vat 79 Mono Blend

Boon Oude Geuze A L'Ancienne Vat 79 Mono Blend - Pours a slightly hazy golden color with a finger of white head that has good retention. Smells nice and earthy, funk, that trademark Boon minerality, something a little fruity lurking in the background. Taste hits with sweet, fruity notes up front, followed by funky earth and minerality, finishing with oak and tart fruit. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, highly carbonated, moderately dry, medium acidity, a nice oaky character to the mouthfeel too. Overall, this is one damn fine geuze, better than Vat 77 for sure, and stacks up favorably against the competition. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 8.8% (back label) or 9% (front label) ABV bottled (750 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a geuze tumbler on 4/29/16. Batch #62203. Best Before 12/17/2034. Brewed on the 19th and 20th of 2011. Bottled 17th Dec 2014. Released April 2016.

There have been two other Mono Blends released, Vat 44 and Vat 109, but I have yet to see those around just yet. I will most certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for those...

Fantôme Strange Ghost

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Explicitly calling this "Strange" may seem a bit oxymoronic. I mean, we are talking about Fantôme here, right? But even among Fantôme's eclectic fare, this beer does indeed stand out. That's a bold statement, to be sure, but one the beer lives up to. As per usual, what sets this apart is difficult to determine (the official description just sez that it's brewed with "spices and herbs") and judging from reviews, it seems like this most recent release is different from previous releases (which supposedly had a more minty, herbal component). It's labeled a saison because lol, style doesn't matter when it comes to something like this, might as well call it saison:

Fantôme Strange Ghost

Fantôme Strange Ghost - Pours a deep, rusty amber color with a finger or two of fluffy, off-white head. Smells sweet and spicy, maybe some fruit zest, hints of that characteristic Tome funk. Taste hits that spice pretty hard, not really sure what it is actually, but it's tasty. Some darker malt presence, though again, it defies precise identification. It gets a bit of tart fruit juice and funk towards the middle and finishes with a tangy, not-quite-sour bite. (Update: I saw someone mention tamarind in reference to this beer, and that feels kinda right for part of the taste, but who knows? It's not like I have tamarind all the time, so I'll just leave this as an aside written after the original tasting notes.) Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, light acidity. Overall, it is indeed strange (even for a Tôme) and it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but it's quite pleasant. A- or B+. Take your pick. I don't even know anymore.

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (capped and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 2/4/17. Vintage: 2016.

I love digging into new Tômes. Always a pleasure. I don't have anything new in the immediate pipeline, but I'm always on the lookout for different releases.

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne

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Tilquin was the beer that made a believer out of me. Ever since that first fateful Tilquin Gueuze, my regard for lambic (and sours in general) has only increased. At the time, you could reliably find bottles of Tilquin out and about, but these days, they seem to have gone the way of Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen. You can still find them on occasion, but they don't normally sit on shelves for very long. Not bad for a Gueuzerie that only opened their doors in 2011.

Since the beginning, they had a fruited variant made with plums, but that offering didn't make its way to the US until a larger batch was produced in 2013, whereupon beer dorks like myself declared it a success. (Funny, at the time, I marveled that this stuff was still available on shelves...)

Now we have a second fruited variant, this time using German "Lock Ness" (aka Rubus fruticosus) blackberries (aka Mûre in French) and blending with small amounts of 2 and 3 year old lambic. I always knew I wanted Mûre Tilquin:

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne

Oude Mûre Tilquin à L'ancienne - Pours an orange crimson color with half a finger of white head (maybe some pink tonez). Smells very funky, earthy, a little unidentifiable but tart fruit. Taste starts off sweet, hits some earthy funk notes in the middle, then moves into jammy tart fruit territory (not obviously blackberries, but something clearly there) with a sour kick. As it warms, it feels a bit richer and the oak comes out a bit more. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, well carbonated, moderate acidity. Overall, this is great, complex, jammy, stuff. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.4% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a charente glass on 1/27/17. Best by: 05/01/2026.

Excellent stuff, as you would expect. Up next on the Tilquin front is a Pinot Noir variant that should be making its way to the US in 2017. Fingers crossed that Kaedrin's beer acquisition team stays on top of it.

Fantôme Artist 2

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This is the second in a series of beers meant to highlight a young Belgian artist, Gaelle Boulanger. There are five planned bottlings, each featuring work from Gaelle. Once the bottles are gone, the art will be auctioned off for her benefit. I don't know any details about this particular piece of art, but it looks like a chart of some kind. I shall dub this piece "Stock Market". I'm sure Gaelle would be appalled, so let's move on.

The beer is, well, who the hell knows? (Serious knowers know!) Dany describes it as a "Strange beer". It's dark, it's funky, might as well just call it a saison because lol, style definitions don't matter. But hey, it's a great looking bottle, fancy foil too. Here goes nothing:

Fantôme Artist 2

Fantôme Artist 2 - Pours a very dark amber color, almost brown, with several fingers of bubbly light tan head. Not a gusher, but hugely carbonated, and I poured very carefully so as to minimize head and still ended up with a lot. Smells beautiful, sweet, fruity funk, a little musty earth, spicy, maybe even some chocolate, like chocolate covered fruit. Taste hits those sweet and fruity funk notes up front before hitting spice and earthy funk in the middle along with some mitigated dark malt notes and returning to that fruit in the finish, which adds a nice tart note. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, crisp, and effervescent, medium bodied, relatively dry, though the tart note keeps things sweet enough. Absolutely does not taste like a 10% ABV beer, alcohol hidden well. Overall, this is fabulous, one of the best dark saisons I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 10% ABV bottled (750 ml). Drank out of a flute glass on 11/18/16.

As always, Fantôme is an experience. Maybe one more bottle in the pipeline. And hopefully more Artist bottles will show up soon...

Fantôme Desert Ghost

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Good news for Fantôme dorks! It appears that Dany is looking to step up operations, maybe invest in a new brewing system, and start putting out creative new offerings on the regular. Dany being Dany, his wording struck a chord, and now there's a new facebook group called Serious Knowers (of all and nothing) and memes about Master Knowers and I didn't think it possible to love Fantôme any more. As per usual, I'm always on the lookout for more Fantôme, and I've recently come into a few new bottles of stuff. Most exciting. Someday I hope to be a Master Knower.

This beer is a collaboration with Arizona Wilderness, who recently visited Belgium and brought along some ingredients foraged from the Sonoran Desert to brew with Fantôme. Of course, Dany won't tell you what these ingredients are; will probably just respond with the typical "Secrets Secrets" answer. I guess we'll just have to go and drink the sucker and see if we recognize anything:

Fantôme Desert Ghost

Fantôme Desert Ghost - Pours an orange hued gold color with half a finger of head that quickly fades to a cap, then sticks around for a while. Smells great, that pear-like earthy funk is back, some sweet floral aromas too. Taste is quite nice, sweet (perhaps some residual sugars hanging around), that fruity yeast feel, pears and the like, a little bit of earth, some spicy yeast too, with a tart bite towards the finish but not really sour. Fantôme's yeast is still distinct, but really doing well these days. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little low on the carbonation (could really use more), no real acidity. Overall, would like more carbonation, but otherwise fantastic. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml corked and capped). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/11/16.

Always an experience. I've got another interesting new Tome in the pipeline, and frankly the recent bottles of regular Fantôme and Dark White were fantastic. Really looking forward to wider availability of their stuff. You will most certainly be seeing more about Fantôme in the future of this blog...

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

Hanssens Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek

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Schaerbeek is nicknamed "the city of donkeys" because they are ruled by a master race of giant, hyper-intelligent donkeys (and I, for one, welcome our new donkey overlords and would like to remind them that as a trusted blogging personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground cherry caves.) Or, you know, people of Schaerbeek, who were cultivators of sour cherries, would use donkeys to transport their precious cargo to its various destinations. One of those things. Anyway, the traditional cherries used in lambic krieks came from that region, but as lambic production has increased, the usage of authentic Schaarbeekse cherries has lessened due to obvious supply and demand pressures. Many breweries risk the "wrath of the donkeys" to do limited runs of their standard krieks with Schaarbeekse cherries, and the result is generally considered a step above the normal kriek offerings.

Hanssens tends to be known more for their Gueuze, which is very good, but when you take their standard kriek (a middle-of-the-road fruited lambic offering, quite nice but not a monster at all) and substitute those Schaarbeekse cherries, they manage to put out an interesting special release. Which, of course, is what we have here.

Hanssens Oude Kriek Handgeplutkte Schaarbeekse Krieken

Hanssens Oude Kriek Handgeplutkte Schaarbeekse Krieken - Pours a deep, dark red color with a little fizzy head that is not long for this world. Smells great, tons of cherry character, but also some oaky aromas and a very nice earthy funk too. Taste has a nice and rich cherry flavor, plenty of oak, and a little earthy funk livening things up (or, er, grounding them?) Sourness peeks in towards the middle and intensifies through the finish. More acetic than usual, but not at all inappropriate and still well balanced. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a bit low on the carbonation (but nowhere near still), a little sticky or syrupy, but still pleasantly so, moderate to high acidity. Overall, this is delicious. A slight increase in carbonation would make this one a classic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 375 ml bottled(375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 10/29/16. Bottled: March 2015.

So that's a nice offering from Hanssens, a mildly underrated lambic producer (I have not reviewed their Gueuze, but it's good and reliably available).

Kerkom Reuss

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So we continue our tour through the swanky realm of Belgian style ales blended with a small proportion of lambic. In this case, Brouwerij Kerkom takes a less bitter version of their standard Belgian Pale Ale and blends in about 20% lambic. Sourcing details are sketchy, but rumor has it that the initial batch was from Drie Fonteinen (perhaps another consequence of the infamous thermostat incident), while subsequent batches vary. Some say Girardin, some say Boon, others say they are sworn to secrecy. The beer is named after the first beer brewed at Kerkom, way back in 1878.

Kerkom Reuss

Brouwerij Kerkom Reuss - Pours a bright golden yellow color with several fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head and lots of visible carbonation. Bottle wasn't quite a gusher, but that cork came out with authority and if I didn't pour quickly, it would have overflowed. Smells quite nice, musty Belgian yeast, spicy and fruity with an earthy component and that lambic twang. Taste hits those fruity esters pretty hard, lightly tart, but it's brought into check by the spicy Belgian yeast and a bit of earthiness in the middle, finishing again on that tart note. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but crisp and refreshing, light to medium bodied, very approachable. Overall, this is fantastic and strikes a good balance with the blended lambic. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/22/16. Bottled 07 04 15 (from the cork).

Kerkom actually makes a beer called Bink Grand Cru which is one of my favorite Belgian Beer Roulette discoveries, even if I haven't seen it around in a while. I should seek out another bottle of that stuff, and might as well try out some of their other offerings. They're two for two so far, s

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