Recently in Lambic Category

Lindemans Kriek Cuvée René

| No Comments

I think my first lambic evar was a draft pour of Lindeman's straight up Kriek. It was not a great beer... and it still isn't particularly good. Why? It turns out that the process for the regular kriek is to take young lambic and add cherry juice and artificial sweetener. In the past, this included something called Acesulfame K, which I know sounds delicious, but is actually pretty gross. These days they use Stevia, but it still tastes odd. It's a cheaper process and thus the beer is more widely available, but then all these sweetened lambics basically taste like sugary Robitussin.

Lindemans Cuvée René Gueuze, though, is a decent example of that style and doesn't cut such corners. Now they've expanded the line to include Kriek Cuvée René, where they blend lambic that is at least 6 months old and throw it into an oak foudre with actual whole cherries (pits and all) to age for another 6 months or so. The result is wholly different and a vast improvement over the regular kriek. Let's dive in:

Lindemans Kriek Cuvee Rene

Lindemans Kriek Cuvée René - Pours a deep, dark red color with a finger of fizzy, short-lived pink head. Smells great, plenty of cherries of course, but also a really nice musky funk. Taste is sweet, with those cherries up front, followed by a little oak and vanilla, finishing with an intense blast of sourness. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, with lots of acidity, especially in the finish. This sucker is drinking really well right now, but from my experience, it seems like the sort of thing that will age really well too. Overall, this is great, seek it out. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 7% ABV bottled (750 ml capped and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 5/13/16. Bottled 12 Aug 2015.

I've been getting more and more enchanted with lambics of late, which is kinda bad news since they are so expensive and hard to find. Still, with stuff like this hitting shelves semi-reliably, there's plenty to explore. This one is worth checking out for sure. I'm curious to see if Lindemans steps up their game in other ways, too...

Drie Fonteinen Intense Red

| No Comments

Your typical Oude Kriek lambic will be made by blending young lambic with somewhere on the order of 25%-30% (by weight) of cherries. Intense Red? Well, it uses 40% whole sour cherries. Madness, I tell you! Madness. In any case, the name "Intense Red" is most certainly appropriate. I was unable to figure out why this particular offering has a completely different labeling style from all of Drie Fonteinen's other artwork, but then, maybe that's why I was able to find this on a shelf. I'm not complaining, so let's wade into this potent cherry potion:

Drie Fonteinen Intense Red Oude Kriek

Drie Fonteinen Intense Red Oude Kriek - Pours a clear, vivid ruby red color, quite striking, with a cap of bright pink head. Smells very sweet, tons of cherries of course, but also hints of underlying earthy funk and maybe really faint notes of oak. Taste is syrupy sweet, lots of sour cherries, just hints of earthy funk present themselves in the middle along with some oak, only to be drowned out by tart cherries in the finish. Mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, very sticky, but not cloying, low-ish carbonation, but enough to make it palatable... Light to moderate sourness. The impact is generally pretty powerful, making this something that'd be worth sharing (even this small bottle). Overall, this is very good, somehow managing to be simultaniously unique and yet a little one note... but if you like cherries, you'll love that note. B+

Beer Nerd Details: 5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tumbler glass on 4/16/16. Bottled: 02-05-2014.

As always, 3 Fonteinen delivers. Alas, no new varieties on the horizon for me... yet. I'm sure I'll find a way to try something else soon enough. I'm looking at you, Framboos.

Lambickx Kriek

| No Comments

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.

Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek

| No Comments

Along with the Oude Geuze, Drie Fonteinen's Oude Kriek is one of their flagship beers. It is basically youngish lambic aged on macerated cherries (pits included!) and refermented in the bottle. I'm reviewing one of the 2015 vintages, but the most intriguing vintage is the 2009.

Drie Fonteinen has been around in some capacity for over a century, but most of that time they were basically a blender. They would buy inoculated wort from lambic producers, then age and blend it. In 1999, they leased a brewing system and started producing their own lambic. In doing so, they became the first new lambic producer in over 80 years. It was pretty good timing too. Lambic was thought to be near dead in the early 90s, but the winds were shifting, and apparently Drie Fonteinen had their finger on the pulse, because the 2000s saw a dramatic increase in interest in Lambic.

This progress call came to a screeching halt one day when Armand Debelder entered his warehouse to find a catastrophic failure of his climate control system. In what's become known as the "Thermostat Incident", a hot air blower essentially never turned off, raising the temperature of the warehouse to 60°:C (14060°:F), essentially cooking over 80,000 bottles of lambic and even causing a few thousand to explode. Most of the lambic was ruined, and the 10 year lease of brewing equipment was coming due. Armand had to temporarily scrap his brewing operation and find ways to recoup. There were several strategies to do so, but the short story is that they're back to brewing again, and their future is bright.

One way they recouped was to take some of the cooked geuze and distill it into eau de vie called Armand'Spirit. They were also able to salvage a few thousand bottles of the Oude Kriek, which were released with a sticker that says "Saved from Thermostat Incident" and eventually became referred to as "Hot Cherry" bottles. You still see ISOs for these now and again, but reviews are difficult to suss out. It's hard to beat the romantic story behind it, of course, but that also tends to color impressions. Of course, this is all academic for me. It is unlikely that I will ever see a bottle of the stuff, let alone taste it, but a man can dream. In the meantime, let's check in with the current humdrum vintage:

Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek

Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek - Pours a striking, clear, radiant dark ruby color with a finger or two of fizzy pink head. Smells great, lots of tart fruit, cherries, blackberries, and the like, big funky earth character, and oak. Taste takes on a bright fruit character, lots of that cherry comes through strong, the earth and oak are present towards the finish but toned down a bit in favor of the tart fruit, and the moderate sourness anchors most of the taste. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, well carbonated, moderately acidic, maybe a hint of stickiness, but it's not syrupy. Overall, a rock solid Kriek lambic, not quite Cantillon levels, but on the same playing field. A-

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 12/5/15. Bottled: 2015 January 18th.

Drinking 3F is always a pleasure. Bottles are hard to come by, but not quite as impossible to find as Cantillon these days. Definitely something to keep an eye out for, and usually worth paying a premium for...

Jean van Roy at Monk's Cafe

| No Comments

In what appeared to be a last minute decision, Cantillon brewer Jean van Roy stopped in at Philly institution Monk's Cafe, and with his arrival came a goodly amount of his prized lambic. In a fortuitous turn, Monk's owner, Tom Peters, also dipped into his cellar for a couple of really special beers. Jean Hummler of Brussels' famous Moeder lambic bars was also visiting and helping decant bottles with the staff. Because of the hasty announcement, the crowds were not completely insane (though the place was still pretty stuffed) and most of us got a taste of even the rarest stuff that was pouring. Everything except the Kriek was being decanted from bottles in 4-6 ounce pours, and as per usual, the staff was professional and courteous.

Naturally, I got some stuff I'd had before, like the Classic Gueuze (excellent as always), Vigneronne (even better than I remembered!), Iris (not as spectacular as the last one I had), and Kriek (on tap, and much more jammy and fruity than I remember from the bottle). New to me was the Cantillon Mamouche, a lambic with elderflowers added (it was originally Zwanze 2009, but they liked it so much they made it a recurring specialty), it was naturally quite nice. I liked it better than most of the above, though I didn't take detailed notes.

Jean van Roy and moi
(Click to embiggen)

Jean was hanging out with the crowd, answering questions, posing for photographs, and being generally personable. I don't normally go in for this sort of thing, but I grabbed a picture with the guy too. He was a good sport. I didn't get a chance to talk with him that much, but I was listening in to a few conversations. Stuff I remember had to do with his use of an abnormally long brewday (starting at 7 or 8 in the morning, ending at 5-6) and that he has a lot of respect for what some of the American breweries are doing. He spoke a lot about Allagash and their coolship program, saying that their first batch was ok, but that each successive batch was getting better and better because spontaneous fermentation relies a lot more on the environment than just regular innoculation. He also mentioned Jester King and Hill Farmstead as brewers who knew their stuff, as if we didn't already know. I was going to ask him about how the Cantillon expansion is going, but didn't get a chance because he was called over to the bar to open those special bottles.

2000 Cantillon Fou Foune
2000 vintage Fou Foune

First up was Fou Foune, a pretty special beer in any scenario, but then add in the fact that these bottles were from the year 2000 and jaws were dropping all over the room (even Tom Peters didn't realize how old they were until he opened the bottle and saw the date on the cork). Pours of this were slightly smaller since there were only 5 bottles available, but a pretty large proportion of folks got a glass (and those that didn't generally got to take a sip of someone else, as everyone was being generous). It was supremely funky, wonderful nose, lots of earth and almost cheese rind character, a little fruit. Taste wasn't quite as funky, but had a very Gueuze-like feel to it, but with hints of oak and tart fruit (not identifiable as peach, for sure). Nothing at all like the nimble, light, and airy fresh Fou Foune, but pretty spectacular in its own right. It's nice to take down a teenager, and it feels well worth the experiment of aging a lambic for absurd amounts of time like this.

Cantillon LH12
Cantillon LH12

Finally, another true rarity, Cantillon LH12, an unblended lambic aged in a Cognac barrel. Yes, singular, they only made one barrel of this stuff, meaning that there were fewer than 400 bottles in existence back in 2010 when they bottled this. Who knows how many are left right now?! As an unblended lambic, this pours almost still. Given my extreme sensitivity to carbonation issues, I was a little worried, but it turned out to be pretty fantastic. As van Roy noted when he introduced it, "This beer is very, very fine, you have to compare it more to a wine than a beer." And he's dead on, this felt very vinous, a little funk and oak, but that vinous fruit carries the day. Supposedly Cantillon 50°N-4°E incorporates something similar (cognac barrel aged lambic) into its blend, though that's another rarity I've never glimpsed.

This was a pretty fabulous night of drinking and proves that you would do well to monitor Monk's Cafe's events page (actually, Framboise For a Cure is coming up in a week or so, I may need to head back there!) Tick another two off the infamous White Whale list. A few more and I'll be completely insufferable.

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007)

| No Comments

A couple weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday, and with it, uncorked a few prized possessions including this hallowed lambic from Drie Fonteinen, a blend of lambics aged on mostly whole raspberries from the fabled Pajottenland, but also includes some cherries and probably some other twists and turns. They don't call Drie Fonteinen's Armand DeBelder a master blender for nothing, and this beer was made in honor of his late father, Gaston DeBelder, so you know Armand went all out with this one. They've only made this twice, once in 2007 and once in 2013. I figured 8 years was enough aging for this one and dug into that first. It did not disappoint.

I don't put much credence to the pretty ridiculous White Whale list, but on a hunch I just looked it up and yes, this marks the first time I've had a beer from that ridiculous list (note that the 2013 vintage didn't make the cut). As you all know, rarity makes beer taste better, so let's fire up those three big fountains and get a load of this amazing beer:

Drie Fonteinen Hommage

Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) - Pours a very pretty pink hued amber, robey tones, finger of fizzy off white head that nonetheless sticks around for a bit. Nose is beautiful, raspberries, cherries, blackberries, berries galore, along with a deep, earthy funk and a little oak too. Taste goes in hard on that jammy berry front, again with the berry cornacopia, predominanty raspberry, but some other berries for good measure. Things get a little acetic and sour in the middle, followed by some of that deep, earthy funk, a unique character actually, but quite tasty. Finishes off with a nice oak and vanilla component that yields to a lingering sour note. Mouthfeel is on the lower end of full bodied and rich, jammy, slightly acidic, moderate to high carbonation cuts through nicely, certainly not a gulper, but very well balanced and a great sipping experience. Overall, this is intense, complex, funky, and balanced, leaning more to the rich and oaky side of fruited lambics (like Cantillon Kriek) than the light an airy (like, say, Fou Foune or St. Lamvinous), a wondrous beer, absolutely delicious. A

Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a flute glass on 9/13/15. Bottled: 14/02/2007.

Bottling date for the doubters

Wales, bro. Well that was impressive. After this one, I cracked a 2012 BCBS, which was holding up exceptionally well. Let's just say it was a good night. I actually have a 2013 vintage Hommage that I may have to hold onto a little longer, but I'm betting it will be opened sooner rather than later. I love these lambics, but they're a bear to get ahold of these days. Even Kaedrin secret Tilquin is starting to disappear from shelves these days. I have a couple Drie Fonteinen Gueuze in the cellar as well, and hope someday to try some of their other stuff. Cantillon has the reputation for better fruited lambics, but if this beer is any indication, they're basically on the same hallowed field.

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

| No Comments

The conventional beer nerd line about lambic seems to indicate that only Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen are worth buying. That may be unfair (both make wonderful beer), but try finding a bottle of either that is not absurdly overpriced at a bar (and they'll make you open it at the bar too - no takeout). I would also put Guezerie Tilquin in that upper tier and I'm pretty sure that the only reason it's not is that people are so sick of overpaying for Cantillon and 3F that they don't want to acknowledge Tilquin's greatness, least they fly off the shelves, never be to seen again. Because I have, like, three regular readers, I have the luxury of not worrying about such things.

Regardless, the notion that only those three brands are worth checking out is patently ridiculous. It's true that most anything you get from them will be fantastic and worth the stretch (and even worth, sometimes, the price gouging you get at restaurants), but there's a pretty reliable second tier of lambic producers that are worth seeking out. Think Boon's Marriage Parfait line or Girardin's Black Label, amongst others. Oud Beersel certainly fits that mold as well.

Perhaps one thing that holds these breweries back a bit is that they put out younger, blander versions of their beer (with fruited varieties relying more on syrupy adjuncts than actual fruit). Boon's Marriage Parfait Gueuze is fantastic, but their regular gueuze doesn't quite stand up to the big guys (the Marriage Parfait tends to incorporate more 3 year old lambic into their blend than the regular). The blending process is key, and indeed, Drie Fonteinen still gets a significant portion of their wort from Boon (I'm pretty sure they are gradually decreasing their dependency on Boon and have expanding their own brewing operations, but it's pretty clear that the difference is aging and blending). Oud Beersel has a similar line of younger lambics and a line of "Vieille" lambics which seem to incorporate more mature stocks into the blend. While I wouldn't put this up there with Cantillon's fruited sours, it's still a pretty darn solid Kriek:

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille - Pours a striking ruby red color with tons of fluffy pink head. Seriously, that image doesn't quite capture the striking appearance of this beer... I shall endeavor to take better pictures (I know, I'm the worst.) Smells of tart cherries, oak, and some dusty, musty funk - definitely a different house character than the other lambics I've had. Taste hits with tart, jammy fruit up front, moves quickly into some oak, that dusty, earthy funk in the middle, and a quick quick sour kick in the finish. When cold, its got sharp edges, but it smooths out a little as it warms. Mouthfeel is highly carbonated, dry up front but sticky in the finish, not as much oak as expected, but it gets fuller as it warms. Overall, a nice cherry lambic, certainly not top tier, but perhaps top of the middle tier... B+

Beer Nerd Details: 6.5% ABV bottled (375 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a Charente glass on 11/29/14. Best Before: 18.04.2032.

Not bad for a brewery that's been operating since 1882 (with a brief blip about a decade ago where it was ownerless), at this point I'd certainly like to check out their Oude Gueuze Vieille

Various and Sundry

| No Comments

Astute readers will note that the grand majority of reviews here are for beers that I drink at home. This is not to say that I don't visit any local drinking establishments, just that I'm usually with other people and I don't want to be that dork who ignores his friends to write obsessive tasting notes. However, I do take my fair share of pictures and maybe check in to Untappd or somesuch. So I do have a fair amount of beer porn in my picture repository that doesn't really see the light of day. Until now! Enjoy these pictures and muddled recounting of various and sundry beers I've had recently, including a rather epic Birthday lineup. In fact, let's start there. It all started, naturally, at Tired Hands:

Tired Hands Cant Keep Up 8

Tired Hands is a small but very popular operation, so every once in a while, especially on weekends, they sell through more beer than is ready. At that point, Jean dips into the cellar and blends up a stopgap, often using some proportion of barrel aged awesome. The resulting beers are called Can't Keep Up, and this was the 8th installment in the series, made with beer from one of Christian Zellersfield's barrels (if he really exists). And my oh my, it was spectacular. Perhaps not quite Parageusia levels awesome, but for a beer that was whipped together under duress, it was rather spectacular. Speaking of spectacular, the other highlight of Tired Hands that day was a Citra IPA called Psychic Facelift. It turns out that I'd already visited Tired Hands earlier in the week and loved this, indeed, I even housed a growler of the stuff.

Tired Hands Psychic Facelift

It seems like Tired Hands always has great IPAs on tap, but this wan was exceptional even for them. Huge, juicy citrus character, absolutely quaffable stuff. Just superb. It's rare that I drink the same beer more than twice in short succession these days, and I think I had about 2 liters in the course of a couple days (I totally should have filled the larger growler, but hindsight is 20/20). Anywho, after some time there, we headed over to Teresa's Cafe (a few miles down the road) for some more substantial food and, of course, great beer. I had a Pliny the Elder, because how can you ignore that when it's on tap? Then my friends proved adventurous and generous, and we went in on a bottle of Cantillon Iris:

Cantillon Iris

It was fantastic, great balance between funk, sourness, and oak, really beautiful beer. And you can't beat the full pomp and circumstance, what with the proper glassware and pouring basket thingy... I had a few other beers, and they were all good, but I had a great birthday.

Some more random beer porn:

Double Sunshine

I guess I could have put up some Double Sunshine for trade, but I just couldn't handle having these in my fridge. I had to drink them.

Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA Citra

It's no Double Sunshine, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this Flying Dog Single Hop Imperial IPA (Citra). I usually don't enjoy IPAs when they get into the 10% ABV range, but this was extremely well balanced between sweet and bitter, and it had that great Citra hop character, tropical fruits, floral notes, and even a bit of herbal goodness. I've always enjoyed Citra-based beers, but I think I'm starting to really crave the stuff, which is going to be dangerous.

Bulldog Top Banana

This was from a long time ago, but it was another surprise, ordered totally at random one night. It's Bullfrog Top Banana, and it was a really solid saison made with bananas. I know that sounds a bit gimmicky and it's not one of those crazy funkified saisons either, but the banana fit seamlessly into their standard saison yeast profile, and it was an absolutely refreshing and tasty brew. Worth checking out if you see it. I should checkout this PA brewery sometime, perhaps go to a bottle release or something. Time will tell.

And that just about covers it. I hope you've enjoyed this rather lame stroll down beer lane. Until next time!

Categories

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID

About

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

You might also want to check out my generalist blog, where I blather on about lots of things, but mostly movies, books, and technology.

Email me at mciocco at gmail dot com.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Lambic category.

Lager is the previous category.

Low Alcohol Beer is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.