Monday, December 9, 2019

Belgium Beer: Gueuze Lambics with the Gueuze Tilquin à l’ancienne

Belgium has provided the world with a plethora of historic beer styles most likely because the industry wasn't hampered by government degrees like the German reinheitsgebot. Their brewing history, starting with Trappist Monks, has supplied us with Dubbel, Tripel, Quad, Saison, Witbier, Flanders Red, Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Belgian Blond Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Oud Bruin, and Lambic beer styles. American consumers most likely think that the last style must contain fruit, however, that is not necessarily so. In fact, Lambics can be further segmented into framboise (raspberries), kriek (cherries), straight lambics, and gueuze.

Gueuze beers are created when blenderies purchase freshly brewed worts from different producers, combine them into oak barrels, and allow them to naturally ferment. Then 1, 2 and 3 years old lambics are blended together and because the young lambics are not fully fermented, the blended beer contains fermentable sugars, which allow a second fermentation to occur in the bottle. The end result is the "Champagne of Belgium" which tends towards a yeasty slightly sour and barnyard profile.

One of the most prolific producers of this style is Gueuzerie Tilquin -- the only gueuze blendery in Wallonia. Their flagship beer is the Gueuze Tilquin à l’ancienne (7% abv) which starts as wort brewed by Boon, Lindemans, Girardin and Cantillon. The blended worts are then fermented and matured in oak barrels at the blendery. After blending the different years, the lambics are then allowed to re-ferment for six months in the bottle.

One local Northern Virginia restaurant, Rustico, carries this beer in different size bottles from 37.5cl ($45) to a magnum ($90).  The profile is very bready - almost grainy with a slightly sour core that stays through the tail. This finish also exhibits a dry tannic bitterness that should be alluring to wine drinkers.  Starting Friday, December 13 Rustico is hosting their annual 12 Days of Christmas Beers where all bottles are 50% off. Since Gueuze beers are priced on the high side, this is a great opportunity to sample these delicious beers. Cheers.

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