Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brett and Fruit: GT Dave Kombucha, Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus

As a kid I used to eat lemons. When life gave me lemons, I might have made lemonade, but with, at most, half the sugar a typical recipe would suggest. I also loved fizzy drinks, except for soda, which of course was too sweet. As a substitute for soda, I used to mix Perrier with fruit juices. Orange juice and perrier, which I dubbed an 'oobie,' started my whole range of drinks, which would become popular with family, less so with friends. When I started getting into wine, I would satisfy my need for fizz and acidity by drinking champagne, cava, cremant d'Alsace, sekt, basically any well made sparkling wine. Recently I have expanded my horizons: during the day I satisfy my craving for tart and fizzy by drinking kombucha, and at night I have started to enjoy the occasional lambic, or Belgian fruit beer.

Kombucha is basically a type of sweetened tea that is slowly, naturally fermented over the course of 30 days. Aiding the fermentation are acetobacter bacteria (used in vinegar production) and several different yeasts, including brettanomyces. These days it is often flavored with fruit. Some CO2 is trapped in the bottle which makes the drink a bit fizzy. My only experience has been with the GT Dave brand, whose flavors I find to be uniformly delicious; try the grape, mango, and strawberry varieties - awesome with a sandwich or simply on their own for a late afternoon boost.

Lambics are spontaneously fermented Belgian beers. They have a strong acetic acid tang, as well as some barnyard like flavors due to the high count of brettanomyces in the brew. Often times the fruit beers you see in stores are sweetened for the mass market, and may not even be based on lambic beers. Cantillon, on the other hand, does things traditionally and naturally. Their rose de gambrinus is based on their geuze (a blend of 1 and 2-3 year old lambics) flavored with fresh raspberries, giving it an intense pink color. At first I loved the beer, with its refreshing framboise flavors and pleasant bitter snap to the finish. However, the more I drank I could not get over the increasingly persistent bitterness, which honestly came across as very bile-like. That right there might have been a deal breaker for many of you, and of course bitter, sour beers are not for everyone. But they're definitely worth a try, especially when made by a brewery as revered and respected by beer afficionados as Cantillon.