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Posts Tagged ‘Gueuze’

Tomorrow is Valentines Day, one of the most useless and overrated holidays that plagues society every year (in MY personal opinion). But then again, I am anti most holidays. Not too mention, I loathe romance. And the color pink.

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If you decide that you must partake in this “unimaginative, consumerist-oriented and entirely arbitrary, manipulative & shallow interpretation of romance” day … please do me one favor: BE ORIGINAL.

Roses, diamonds, chocolate & champagne are sooooo overused it makes me want to puke.

Although I am a wine enthusiast and aspiring sommelier, the unconventionalist in me needs to steer society away from toasting with champagne on “singles awareness day.”

If you really want to impress your Valentine, pop open a bottle of brew. Trust me on this one – it will work on both chicks and dudes alike.

Naturally, my go to beers on special occasions are lambics (and other “wild yeast beers”). In my opinion, gueuzes (a type of lambic) make the best substitute for champagne. And for a good reason.

Gueuze is a blend of young and old lambics. As with champagne, gueuze undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. If you love the ceremonial uncorking presentation and the “special pop” that accompanies champagne, have no fear. Gueuze is served in champagne bottles – cork and all.

gueuze

Unlike most beers, gueuzes are produced with aged hops. The combination of wild yeast and aged hops yields a dry, cidery, must, sour, acetic acid & lactic acid flavor. Mmmm … dreamy.

Here are a list of my personal favorite gueuzes, in no particular order:

Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René

Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic

Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze

Cantillon Iris

Boon Oude Geuze

Okay, so I understand that not everyone enjoys gueuzes as much as I do. Fair enough. To each their own.

BUT BEFORE YOU GO BACK TO THE CHAMPAGNE – STOP. There are still other options. Let us visit the fruit lambics, shall we?

Now I know from LOTS of experience that some people (cough *women* cough) think that all beer is heinous and getting them to drink one is like trying to give a cat a bath – lots of hissing, spitting and clawing with nails.

cat-bath

However, I have found that many beer haters can be converted with fruit lambics. (Even my very own SISTER … a chick who drinks one alcoholic beverage a year … enjoys the flavor of fruit lambics!)

Fruit lambics are exactly as they sound – lambics with fruit added. Typically, whole fruit is added after the spontaneous fermentation. In some cases, fruit flavoring is used (usually by American brewers trying to mimic the Belgian style).

fruit-lambics

The most common flavors include: sour cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif) and strawberry (aardbei). My personal favorite, without a doubt, is Kriek.

Here is a list of fruit lambics that I particularly enjoy:

Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic

Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus

Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

Oude Kriek

Boon Kriek

Lindemans Kriek

Lindemans Framboise

Still not convinced to forgo the champagne in favor of beer? HOLD UP. STOP RIGHT THERE.

It is time to take out the big guns … Allow me to introduce you to my friend DeuS.

deus

Ahhhh yes. DeuS, the REAL champagne of beers. And this is NOT an over-statement.

DeuS is brewed by Brouwerij Bosteels in “one of the newest and most interesting styles of beer”: Bière de Champagne. Essentially, the only thing that separates it from champagne is the ingredients.

DeuS is initially brewed in Belgium, where it undergoes double fermentation (the second occurs within the bottle). It is then sent to France, where champagne makers add champagne yeast for a third fermentation. DeuS spends a long fermentation period in France where (like champagne) it is slowly turned each day in a process called riddling. Eventually the yeast collects in the neck of the bottle, which is frozen, and the yeast is expelled. (Also known as the “methode de champenoise” process of removing yeast from the bottle.)

The price tag of DeuS reflects the lengthy and complicated process of producing this beer. At around $30 bottle, DeuS is a beer for the big ballers. But as with a good bottle of champagne, it is a worthy investment. And you have my word on it. In fact, I will even give you my scouts honor.

scouts-honor

And whether you chose a gueuze, a fruit lambic, DeuS or all of the above … take my suggestion and “class” it up with a flute glass. It will have you saying “champagne schmampagne” in no time. And before you know it, all of your holidays will be celebrated with a beer!

evil-valentine

And regardless of how and why you celebrate it, Happy Valentines Day. Cheers!

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There is something that my readers should probably know about me.

I am obsessed with Ohio State Football.

ohio-state1Born and raised by an obsessive Ohio State alumni father, I was destined to become a Buckeye. And Buckeye I have become. I graduated in the Spring of 2005 with 2 bachelor degrees and varsity letters in 2 different sports.

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Not only do I eat, sleep and breathe Ohio State … I also bleed scarlet and gray. (In fact, while at Ohio State I literally bled, sweat and cried for the school!)

ohio_state_universityTonight, The Ohio State University will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl against The University of Texas. We have matched up against Texas a few times in the past couple of years … and each time has been a good game. Texas is a solid team and worthy opponent.

majorbowl

In honor of the Fiesta Bowl, I think it only appropriate to drink my favorite style of beer. What could be better than pairing two of my greatest loves and obsessions?

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Ohio State Football meets Lambic … a match made in heaven!

The Lambic of choice for this evening is Cantillon Gueuze. To me, gueuze is the Champagne of beers. As a matter of fact, I often drink gueuze in lieu of sparkling wine for many celebratory occasions.

Those who have read my post entitled “My Obsession With Wild Beers” are aware that Lambics are my favorite style of beer … with gueuze being my favorite style of Lambic. Although I have yet to visit a Lambic brewery, the process of creating gueuze completely blows my mind.

Lambics are the base for Gueuze creation. Whereas most styles of beers are fermented with carefully measured brewer’s yeast, Lambics are created through a process of spontaneous fermentation. Gueuze is the result of artfully blending Lambics of different ages different tastes.

Gueuze is also one of the only styles that uses aged hops. (In gueuze, hops are used primarily for their preservation characteristics and not so much for flavor.)

cantillon

One of the most infamous brewers of gueuze is Cantillon Brewery. Founded in 1900, Cantillon is a small traditional family brewery based in Brussels. The brewery also serves as the site for the Gueuze Museum in Brussels. It is open to the public to tour and see the maturing beer as well as to watch the brewing and bottling processes. Sign me up!

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“The Lambic beers from the Cantillon brewery, which are conserved in oakwood barrels, are called “young” after one year, but they will reach their full maturity after three years. The young beers contain the sugars which are necessary for the second fermentation in the bottle. The three years old beers will contribute their taste and their flavour. The main task for the brewer, however, is tasting. He will taste about ten Lambics from different barrels in order to select five or six which will be used for the Gueuze 100% Lambic presenting the typical characteristics of the beers from the Cantillon brewery.” Source: Cantillon Brewery

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Gueuze bottles are always sealed with a cork. Cantillon caps theirs with a crown-cork. Similar to the méthode champenoise, Lambics are laid to rest horizontally in a cellar (usually for a year). This allows for a second fermentation to take place within the bottle. The sugars to be converted into carbon dioxide in this process. It is a natural and extremely slow process.

gueuze1

When the Lambic becomes sparkling, it is called Gueuze! Every blending will produce a different Gueuze. Since it is made using an entirely all natural process, there is no standard gueuze. Each brewery produces a unique gueuze. Every vintage is different. Yet another reason why the gueuze is my favorite style.

But what about the taste? In my opinion, gueuze is one of the most tasty and drinkable styles of beer in the world. Beautiful and natural, gueuze is a work of art.

gueuze-038

THE WENCH’S TASTING NOTES: CANTILLON CLASSIC GUEUZE

Brewery: Cantillon

Region: Brussels, Belgium

Style: Gueuze

Pairings: Goat cheese, figs, dried fruits, nuts, cheese, baked fruit pies, belgian waffles, pancakes with maple syrup …

Color: Super cloudy, golden orange

Carbonation: Little to no head, moderate lacing, decent overall carbonation.

Aroma: Belgian yeast (bananas & cloves), lemon, sour fruit, barnyard hay.

Mouthfeel: Very light bodied, smooth and clean.

Flavor: Citrus instantaneously overwhelms the palate. And I know it sounds weird for a beer, but I want to call it grapefruit. The flavor of the beer has a bitter acid component to it … similar to grapefruit. I would even go as far as to say it tastes like the rind of a grapefruit – ridiculously sour and fairly bitter. As the beer sits, it develops more apple cider-like characteristics.

Comments: This beer is super yummy. I guarantee that if I was to pour this beer blindly, most people would have no clue as to what it is … and most would not even be able to label it as a beer.

I am tempted to infuse a glass with a cinnamon stick. Perhaps I will do that with a different bottle in the future.

gueuze-039

Cheers to the Buckeyes! GO BUCKS!

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I have developed an intense fascination, preoccupation … and obsession with wild yeast beers.

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In my personal opinion, Lambics are quite possibly the most exciting and interesting style of beer. Ales and lagers are both fermented carefully with cultivated strands of brewer’s yeast -using tremendous control. On the other hand, Lambics are produced by spontaneous fermentation.

Although, my spontaneous nature has led to less than desired consequences in the past … I still pride myself for having such a free-spirited and adventurous personality. So what if I almost died jumping off an 80 foot cliff when I was in high school … I am still alive now, right?

gctreed-raft-jump

I love the thrill of not knowing. I function well in chaos. I love jet setting at the very last minute. I am an adventurer and explorer. And this is why I love the concept of spontaneous fermentation.

The late and internationally renowned Beer Hunter, Michael Jackson, has referred to Lambics as the winiest of all the world’s beers.

As with many Belgian beers, Lambics are also subject to many regulations. In order to receive Lambic “certification” and label privileges, Lambics varieties must have Traditional Speciliaty Guaranteed (TSG) status.

The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) is a trademark for an agricultural product or a foodstuff, which has a certain feature or a set of features, setting it clearly apart from other similar products or foodstuffs belonging to the same category. The product or foodstuff itmust be manufactured using traditional ingredients or must be characteristic for its traditional composition, production process, or processing reflecting a traditional type of manufacturing or processing.

pgi

So what exactly is all the traditional mumbo jumbo for Lambics?

The Lambic style can trace its roots back over 400 years, and has remained mostly unchanged from its introduction. The first written recipe is dated 1516.

brussels21

Although it is impossible to confirm the origin of the word “Lambic” (“lambiek” in Flemish / Dutch), its most likely origin is the small town of Lembeek (“Lime Creek”) – a municipality close to Brussels. Today, Lambic production is concentrated in the western part of Brussels and in the nearby “Pajottenland”.

brussels1

The definition of Lambic was set out in a series of Belgian Royal Decrees in the 1960’s and 70’s. These determined that Lambic must be made from at least 30% unmalted wheat at a gravity of no less than 11 Plato.

Lambic wort is usually composed of 60-70% barley malt and 30-40% unmalted wheat. Lambic beers are typically made from an original density (wort-strength) of 11.75-13.5 Plato (12.7 is the classic level) with an alcohol content of around 5.0-6.5% by volume.

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Lambic beers use a variety of mashing regimes – some being very long and elaborate. The traditional method involves making two separate mashes and heating each in individual kettles.

At the boiling stage, Lambic beers use far more hops than conventional beers – sometimes up to 6 times as many hops. HOWEVER … Lambics are NOT bitter. (We will get to the flavor notes later). One of the MAJOR differentiating factors about Lambics is that they use AGED HOPS, typically aged up to three years.

hops1

The object of aging hops is to diminish their aroma, flavor, and bitterness. INSTEAD, the hops are being used solely for their secondary purpose – to ward against unwanted infections and excessive oxidation.

Unlike conventional beers which usually boil for an hour or so, the Lambic boil lasts anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. After the boil, conventional beers are usually cooled in a heat exchanger. Lambics are not. Instead, Lambic wort will spend the night in a coolship.

third-week-antwerp-brugge-139

Then it is on to fermentation.

Unlike with conventional beers, No yeast is artificial added to Lambic wort. Instead, Lambic wort is exposed to the open air of the “Zennevalei” aka the Senne-valley. Wild yeast cells, including Bretanomyces bruxellensis and Bretanomyces lambicus (which are always in the open air in the environment of Brussels), come into the wort and eventually result in spontaneous fermentation.

Due to the spontaneous fermentation, Lambic can be brewed only in the “winter season” (October-May). In summertime, there are too much undesirable bacteria, which can infect the wort and interfere with the natural fermentation.

Most ales and lagers are produced using only a few strands of yeast, while Lambics are typically made with around 86 yeast strands.

fermenting_tank

As you can imagine, spontaneous fermentation is a very lengthy process. The microorganisms involved in the creation of Lambics must work in a specific sequence. Each microroganism depends on the metabolized products of its predecessors. It takes about two to three years for the entire process to complete and to produce a mature Lambic.
The varieties of Lambic include: Straight Lambic (Lambic Pure), Faro, Fruit, Mars … and MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, Gueuze.

Straight Lambic: Cloudy, uncarbonated (almost still), unsweetened and unblended draught beer. Generally three years old. Extremely hard to find. It is served in only one or two two cafés in Brussels and a handful in the area of production.

Faro: Unblended three-year-old lambic sweetened with rummy-tasting dark candy sugar and occasionally spiced. Also hard to find and typically found on draught. Sometimes available at Lambic cafés in a do-it-yourself version where sugar is added directly at the table by the drinker and crushed into the drink with a mortar. Faro was once the restorative for the working man in Brussels.

faro

Mars: Traditionally referred to a weaker beer made from the second runnings of a Lambic brewing. It is no longer commercially produced.

Fruit: Lambic with the addition of whole fruit or syrup. Most common fruits include sour cherry (kriek), raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif), or strawberry (aardbei). Rarer fruit lambic flavorings include apple (pomme), banana, pineapple, apricot, plum, cloudberry, and lemon. Fruit lambics are usually bottled with secondary fermentation. Lambic-based Kriek beers are the most traditional fruit brews.

beer-image

Gueuze: Bottled, sparkling and easier to find. Made by blending young Lambic (6 months to 1 year old) with more mature vintages (2 to 3 years old). It is then bottled for a second fermentation (similar to Champagne and is actually bottled in Champagne bottles). The word Gueuze (hard “g”, and rhymes with “firs”) may have the same etymological origins as the English words gas and ghost, and the Flemish gist (“yeast”), referring to carbonation and rising bubbles.

gueuze_kriek-bottle

Last spring – while drinking and eating my way through Chicago, I was introduced to the gueze. My first experience was with Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene – which absolutely blew my mind. I loved it so much, in fact, that I opted to drink Cuvee Rene for my last birthday (the quarter of a century celebration) in lieu of Champagne or sparkling wine. To this day, I find it very hard to choose between Gueuze and Champagne!

lind_gueze_bott

Now that I have posted the educational mumbo jumbo about Lambics … I look forward to tasting and blogging about some of my favorites in the (very) near future!

CHEERS!


SOURCES: Michael Jackson’s GREAT BEERS OF BELGIUM, Wikipedia

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