Thursday, August 19, 2010

Long time, no beer post

As the title suggests, it's been a while since I have discussed beer - at least on this site. As we recently received in (and very quickly sold through) our allocation of some lambics and geuze from Cantillon, and as I anticipated the usual run on them by purchasing two of each (one for now, one for the cellar) I thought that it would be an opportune time to write about these fantastic, peerless beers of the sour style. If you are not familiar with sour beer, their home base is in Belgium and Flanders - though they are so popular now that most countries with a serious craft brewing scene produce at least a few examples. Lambics and geuze beers consist of water, hops, barley, wheat, and often times a single variety of fruit. They ferment spontaneously with native yeasts as well as bacteria such as Brettanomyces. After fermentation, they are typically aged for at least a year in used oak barrels and then refermented in the bottle. Lambics are from a single batch. Geuze is a blend of 1,2 and 3 year old lambics blended for their distinctive flavor components.

From my experience, Cantillon makes the tastiest, most balanced and elegant geuze and lambic beers. Below are some quick notes for the Cantillon beers I drank last week.

Cantillon Geuze

Crisp, tangy sour apricot flavors with some subtle Brett characteristics. Refreshing in a tough to pinpoint way, this is sneakily complex as well. I like to serve it in a white wine glass, just as I prefer to drink champagne.

2007 Cantillon Iris

Whereas the Geuze above is a blend of different lambics, this is a single lambic brew. There is no wheat in this one, just barley, water and a 50-50 blend of dry and fresh hops. As a result, the beer has a darker, more amber color. Its aromas and flavors are more burnished, with a bit of sour, but less fizz and deeper, bassier tones than the geuze. In a seriously high quality line-up, this might be my favorite
of the bunch.

Cantillon Kriek

Spicy, tart, complex and deeply satisfying. The essence of fermented cherries as only a lambic can manifest. I find a tough time describing how good this is without employing profane language....

Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus

This is usually the most challenging of Cantillon fruit lambics. It can be really sour. This batch, however, is mouthwateringly delicious in a way similar to the Kriek above. Rasberry flavors are pure and evocative of the fruit. Elegant and addictive.