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Cantillon Cuvée St-Gilloise

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In 2004, head Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy was supes excited that his hometown football (that's soccer to us Yanks) team won a championship, so he cracked some barrels of 2 year old lambic, dry hopped it for good measure, then bottled his Cuvée des Champions! Sadly, it seems that Brussels' soccer club Union St. Gilles has since fallen on hard times, to the point where a disgusted1 Jean Van Roy decided that "he could not in good conscience dedicate the beer to 'Champions.'" As such, the beer is now named a less celebratory Cuvée St-Gilloise2.

It's labeled a Gueuze, but it's not really a blend of younger and older beers, just that swanky 2 year old stuff. This makes me wonder why the "Cuvée" moniker, though I suppose there's still blending of different barrels going on here. As for the dry-hopping, RateBeer sez they used Styrian Goldings, but this guy sez they changed to Hallertau. It's an interesting and uncommon tweak for lambics, but I don't think either hop variety would tweak American hopheads all that much and this bottle is pretty old, so I'm sure the aroma has faded considerably. Not that I'm complaining, as this was still rather awesome.

Cantillon Cuvee St-Gilloise

Cantillon Cuvée St-Gilloise (AKA Cuvée Des Champions) - Pours a bright golden yellow color with a couple fingers of bubbly white head. Smells of funky, lightly earthy Brett, with lots of fruity notes, lemony, almost more like a funky saison than guezue. Taste is bright and fruity, lemony, nice subtle oak character (which opens up a little more as it warms), with a well matched sourness emerging quickly, bringing that guezue character big time. Mouthfeel is light, crisp, and refreshing, a little thinner than some other gueuzes, but not in a bad way, and it's highly drinkable too. Overall, this is great, why do I need to rate these? They're all so damn good. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a Tired Hands glass on 6/28/13. Bottled 12 November 2012. Best before November 2022.

Danger: lambic reserves have reached critical levels. Only one or two left. Fortunately, I've got a line on some (probably not Cantillon though) that I might be able to grab next week. Fingers crossed. Also worth noting that I've saved the supposed best for last, but you'll just have to wait a couple weeks to read about that sucker.

1 - As a Philadelphia sports fan, my notions of sport fandom are probably much different than Jean Van Roy's, to the point where he would probably describe "disgusted" as an exaggeration. In Philly, such a description would be much more vivid and colorful, involving expletives and threats of violence, so I find "disgusted" to be a decent compromise.

2 - But on the other hand, he's still dedicating a beer to his hometown team - so he's no bandwagon fan either.

Drie Fonteinen Golden Blend

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Drie Fonteinen has been around since 1887, and they've been making geuze style beers since then. Well, technically, they purchased new and old lambics from other breweries and blended them together (as befits the style). Since they opened, they've gradually been expanding the operation over the generations, to the point where they now have their own production brewery. But seeing as though geuzes are always comprised of a blend, they've kept that skillset up to date as well. Indeed, the guy they put in charge over there, Armand Debelder, is called a Master Blender, and if you get your jollies by obsessing over top lambic lists, you'll see that he's well deserving of that title.

Your typical geuze is a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics. What we have here incorporates 4 year old lambic as well, clocking in at about 25% of the blend. The rest of the blend is comprised of a "secret" allocation of 1, 2, and 3 year old lambics, because, you know, Master Blenders gotta put food on the table. Given the expense of aging beer, the thirst of angels, and the extra year needed to produce this, the cost of entry is a bit on the high side here (hence the "golden" blend). Is it worth it?

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend - Pours a very pretty golden orange color with a couple fingers of fluffy, big bubbled head that seems to fade into a more dense head with decent retention. Smells of musty funk with a big oak element. Taste starts off sweet, with that oak hitting pretty quickly, but then yielding to tart, fruity flavors that escalate into full blown puckering sourness towards the finish. As it warms up, that sourness intensifies even further. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, effervescent, crisp, with an extremely dry finish. Overall, this is a great beer, certainly a step up from their regular Oude Geuze, and among the best that I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 6/14/13. Bottled 02/17/2011. Good until 02/2021.

I've seen people saying that this bottle is sitting on shelves with absurd price tags upwards of $40. But then, it's also on Etre Gourmet for 11 Euros, so do the math on that, and even with absurd shipping costs it's cheaper to order it direct from Belgium. On the other hand, more reasonable prices in the $20-$25 range might be worth it if you're a huge fan of the style... Certainly not a beginner beer though.

June Beer Club

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You know the drill: a bunch of beer-minded colleagues and I get together at a local BYOB and drink our faces off. A low turnout this month due to scheduling, but still good times. I was negligent and forgot to take a picture of the beers on offer, so I made this fancy artist's rendering in MS Paint:

The middle one is a lambic, which is why its in a green bottle.

I think I may have missed my calling. For the sake of posterity, some half-remembered notes are recorded below. You're welcome.

  • The Captain's Invisible Moon - Which, if named after the style, would be "The Captain's Cream Ale", which just sounds gross. Unless you're a big Chris Evans fan. Like, a really big fan. Oh yeah, the beer. A homebrewed cream ale, it came out pretty well, kinda like a wheat beer, but with that smooth texture of a cream ale. Really easy drinking and a good way to start the night.
  • Brewer's Art Ozzy Ale - Nice Belgian yeast character, lots of spice (clove) and again, pretty easy drinking. It's a perfectly cromulent beer, but nothing to go nuts over. B
  • Boulevard Coffee Ale - This was one of those beers I got from the BIF trade, but since I wasn't a big coffee guy, I figured I'd share it with some people who might appreciate it a bit more. The coffee wasn't overwhelming at all, which is nice, especially since this isn't a stout either. Lots of malt character with that coffee taking a prominent place. It's not really my thing at all, but I was glad I got to share it (even though, uh, it seemed that a most beer club peeps were also not coffee people either). C+
  • Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale - I have actually had this before (and incorporated it into my Choose Your Own Adventure Beer Review epic), and in this setting, it stood out pretty darn well. I could probably be tempted to upgrade the rating, but I'll leave it at a B for now.
  • Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l'Ancienne - This is the green bottle in the artist's rendering above! One of my other contributions of the night, this one is every bit as good as I remember, and compares favorable with the big boys at Cantillon and 3F (at least, when it comes to their regular lineup). Still an A- in my book.
  • Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout - Another of my contributions, I actually bought a Dark Horse variety pack a while back, and since Dark Horse apparently loves to make stouts, they have a sorta numbered series of beers, this being the third. It's got a big blueberry aroma and even a little taste, but it doesn't feel artificial either, which actually kinda works. B
  • Boulevard Love Child No. 3 - Label sez it's aged in bourbon barrels, but I should have inspected more closely, because this sucker is actually a wild ale. A malt-forward base with some very tart, sour notes that hit quickly, but fade towards the finish, making this a pretty darn good drink. Decent funk, actually one of my favorites of the night. A-
  • John Henry West Indies Pale Ale - A pale ale aged on rum oak spirals... I would have expected that boozy rum to dominate, but it doesn't. Unfortunately, it doesn't really add much either. I feel like the rum and oak sorta fought the hops, sorta canceling each other out. What we're left with is fine, I guess, but not as flavorful as you might think. B-
  • Dark Horse Too Cream Stout - Another of Dark Horse's stout lineup, this one is a milk stout. Smooth, but big and burly, it's a bit of a bear, but it actually acquitted itself really well considering it was the last beer we opened. B
Well, there you have it. We'll return to normal review blogging for the next few days. It is actually Philly Beer Week, so I should probably hit up some other places this weekend and write about a few things I've already seen. Or something.

Cantillon Gueuze

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What a good way to start the weekend. After a long week at work, coming home to a bottle of Cantillon makes me want to pump my fist triumphantly like Judd Nelson. Don't you forget about me.

What? Oh yeah, beer. So this is Cantillon's straight up organic Gueuze. You know the drill: a blend of various ages of oak barrel conditioned lambic (usually involving 1, 2, and 3 year old spontaneously fermented beer). Cantillon sez this beer represents half of the production of the brewery and that when cellared properly (i.e. not how I do it!) it will still have "an exceptional taste and flavour after 20 years." Hard to believe that anyone can hold on to a bottle for that long, as this is classic stuff:

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic-Bio

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio - Pours a cloudy golden yellow color with a finger of tight white head and good retention. Smells of musty funk, yeast, a little oak, that twang that indicates sourness. Taste starts sweet, with some yeasty funk and spice hitting in the middle, followed by oak and a nice tart sourness intensifying through the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, smooth, some pleasant acidity that intensifies through the finish. Plenty of carbonation, a little more than 3F, but not as much as Tilquin. Overall, a fantastic, well balanced beer, not quite the revelation that the kriek was, but definitely on par with the best Gueuzes I've had. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml capped and corked). Drank out of an entirely too big Tired Hands glass on 5/10/13. Label sez: Bottled 3 December 2012.

I have a 750 of this in my cellar, but I can guarantee it won't last 20 years. Probably not even within an order of magnitude. Glad I'm starting with the simple stuff though. Not sure how much of a difference there is between this "Bio" stuff and the regular Classic Gueuze, but it's still damn good. Anywho, I get the feeling minds will be blown as I start to branch out into their fancier offerings. Stay tuned.

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

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Ever since Oude Gueuze Tilquin made a believer out of me, I've been on the lookout for more lambics, with a keen eye to acquire some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen (aka 3 Fonteinen, which I guess means 3 Fountains or somesuch). These are both classic lambic breweries that have experienced an explosion in demand while not really being able to increase production all that much. It doesn't help that something like an Oude Geuze takes at least 3 years to produce, not to mention other concerns (Cantillon, for instance, has pretty much maxed out capacity, and given the exigency of spontaneous fermenation, they can't just open a new brewery somewhere). Drie Fonteinen seems to be the easier to acquire of the two, but I still haven't seen any of it around in the past half a year or so. I finally broke down and ordered some direct from the source. This cost a pretty penny, but from what I understand, there've been issues with people charging outrageous prices for this stuff, so it was probably worth it (thanks to Rich for the link).

What we've got here is the "basic" Oude Geuze. Scare quotes because while 3 Fonteinen has their fair share of one-offs and rarities, this is still a blend of 3 year old, 2 year old, and 1 year old lambic, which is no joke to the tune of being a top 100 baller on BA. I've got fancier stuff stashed away for later, but let's not get too carried away. Here goes:

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze - Pours a deep golden color with half a finger of white, bubbly head. Smells of twangy funk and oak. Taste has lots of that funky Brett character, a pleasant sourness, and lots of oak too. Well balanced flavors here, with no component overpowering the other. It also evolves well as it warms. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, plenty of carbonation though it does seem a little light for the style. Has a more winelike character than I'm used to. Not that that's bad. Overall, I could get used to these Oud Geuze things. I don't like this as much as the aforementioned Tilquin, but I'll still plant a firm A- on this sucker.

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Cantillon Gueze tumbler on 4/19/13. Label sez: bottled on 21/12/2011. Good until 21/12/2021.

Up next in my summer of lambic will be some sort of Cantillon (probably the Kriek), but I've got a bottle of 3 Fonteinen Golden Blend that is just begging to be opened.

Girardin Black Label Gueuze

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The past few years, I've cracked open a big, effervescent saison beer to ring in the New Year. Such saisons are a solid fit for the occasion, but they're not quite the champagne of beers, which is clearly the Gueuze style. A blend of spontaneously fermented beer aged in oak, incorporating beer that's at least 2 years old, Gueuzes are also quite bright and effervescent. They are usually even caged and corked, just like champagne. Alas, I appear to have misplaced my sabre, so I had to open it the old fashioned way.

This Girardin variety seems to be pretty well regarded for a gueuze not made by Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen, so let's see how 2013 began, beerwise:

Girardin Gueuze

Girardin Black Label Gueuze 1882 - Pours a bright orange color, slightly hazy, with a finger of white head. Smells of fruity funk, with that twang that indicates sourness. Taste is very sweet, with some tart fruit hitting in the middle and evolving into true sourness in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, but crisp, well carbonated, drinkable, but that sweetness gets to be a bit much as you finish this off. Still, it's all pretty well done. Not quite the revelation that, say, Tilquin was, but very good in its own way. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 1/1/13.

The sour march goes on, some other exciting stuff in the pipeline too, so stay tuned.

Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait

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So now that I've climbed aboard the Gueuze train to sour town, I'm picking up whatever examples I can get my hands on. So far, no Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen to be found, but this one popped on my radar during my latest trip to Pinocchio's. Boon's regular Oude Geuze often seems to be referred to as a beginner's sour, and consists of 90% lambic aged for 18 months, 5% lambic aged for 3 years, and 5% "young" lambic. This Mariage Parfait version differs in that it consists of 95% lambic aged for 3 years, and 5% "young" lambic. A "perfect wedding" of new and old? Let's find out:

Boon Mariage Parfait

Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait - Pours an orange color with a finger or two of bubbly white head that quickly recedes. Smells of funky oak and ripe fruits. Taste is sweet, with plenty of funky earth in the middle and some sour fruitiness emerging towards the finish, along with earthy oak. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated and effervescent, but crisp and refreshing. Overall, a solid Gueuze that I very much enjoyed, but not quite to the levels of Tilquin. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 8% ABV bottled (375 ml, caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 11/17/12.

My renewed interest in Gueuze and lambics in general will continue, abated only by lack of availability. Alas, I'm not able to make it to Zwanze day on Saturday, so I may have to wait a bit longer for my first Cantillon... But don't worry, Loons will be slayed. It's only a matter of time.

I've been kinda orbiting sour beers for the past couple years. Like the scared apes at the beginning of 2001, I'll cautiously approach the sour beer monolith and give it a tap every now and again. Sometimes I come away disappointed, but lately, I've been having more revelatory experiences than not. The first sour beer I ever had was Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, a beer that nearly puckered me into oblivion. As it turns out, gueuze is one of the more intense, harsh sour styles, so that beer set a strange reference point for me. It almost certainly should not have been my first sour beer, but I'm older and wiser now, and I thought it was time to revisit the style.

Gueuzerie Tilquin opened its doors a little over a year ago, when it became the first new Belgian lambic blendery in nearly 15 years. You might be tempted to ask: So what? But this is a pretty big occasion, as opening a brewery specializing in lambics is a very long, cost prohibitive venture. Tradtional lambics are spontaneously fermented (meaning none of them cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts are used, instead relying on wild yeasts and bacteria that live in the air all around us) and aged in oak barrels. And gueuze is an even trickier business, as it requires a blending of young lambic (about 1 year old) with old lambic (2 and/or 3 years old). So we've got a large initial investment, a tricky, uncertain process of fermentation, and no revenue for at least 2 years? This is pretty much a miracle.

So Pierre Tilqiun is a visionary. A patient one too. But he knows what he's doing, having done tours of duty at Drie Fonteinen and Cantillon (for the uninitiated: these are legendary lambic breweries). I'm a little unclear on the distinctions, but I'm guessing that the reason it's called a "Gueuzerie" is because Tilquin doesn't actually make any of the wort they use to make their lambic, instead buying it from Boon, Cantillon, Girardin, and Lindemans. Apparently Tilquin is the only gueuze blender that Cantillon will sell their wort too, so good on them. Anyways, this beer was fantastic, and I think I'm now a full born believer in sour beer.

Oude Gueuze Tilquin

Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne - Pours a golden color with half a finger of bubbly white head. Smells strongly of musty funk and twangy, sour fruit. Taste has a more sugary component than expected, though still lots of tart fruit flavors, a little earthy funk, and a well rounded sourness that intensifies through the finish (but never reaches the gargantuan puckering levels I feared). Definitely picking up an oak aged vibe, though that may be more of a mouthfeel thing. Speaking of which, mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth, not quite as effervescent as champagne and better for it, and there's a richness to it that I associate with oak aged beers. Overall, this is fantastic stuff and makes me want to go out and buy every damn sour beer I can find. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/26/12. Label sez: 2010/2011 Best before: 15/04/2021.

The lament of the sour beer nerd: doesn't it seem like it's much harder to find Cantillon these days that it was a few years ago? For crying out loud, I saw Cantillon at Total Wine a couple years ago, but I can't find any of it anywhere these days (except for $60 a pop for old bottles at a few local bars). But this is only a matter of time, expect to see some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen stuff reviewed, uh, as soon as I can find it. In the meantime I'll have to settle for some Rodenbach vintage and Bruery sours. I know, poor me.

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Hi, my name is Mark, and I like beer.

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