Tuesday, May 16, 2006

UPDATED: Third annual "Lambic by the Glass" coming on June 24, and here's the revised scoop.

I've studied the calendar, and it looks like Saturday, June 24 will be this year's date for staging our third annual “Lambic by the Glass” tasting.

While this particular paean to Belgian brewing tradition isn’t everyone’s cup of joe, those who are hip to lambic definitely will want to be in attendance.

Here are projected changes to the event this year.

The lambic tasting will be held in our Prost special events room adjoining Rich O’s, and will be either on Friday or Saturday, but not both. This makes it easier to open only those bottles needed for the tasting, and removes the risk of wasting (shudder) good lambic.

There’ll actually be one draft lambic: Cantillon Gueuze.

There will be Belgian-themed food involved with the tasting this year – but don’t ask me for details just yet. I know what I’d like to do, but whether it is practical has yet to be calculated.

I’ll be there the entire time to pour and disseminate information. Last year, I scheduled myself to be four places in two days, and I promise this won’t happen again in 2006.

Here's a page of fine photos that amply summarize the lambic experience as displayed at the Cantillon brewery in Brussels: Lambic Brewery Day (source of the above photo).

Here’s the text of the preview that appeared last year at the Potable Curmudgeon beer blog.


For too many of my customers, Lindemans Framboise is the only Belgian lambic they’ve ever tasted. We keep it on tap year-round and sell 20 liters a week like clockwork.

The Curmudgeon grimaces, but never fails to deposit the filthy lucre.

To be sure, there’s a place in the cosmos of beer styles for sweetened raspberry concoctions that manage to appease the spouse while you savor something, well, a bit more challenging, but in ideal terms this isn’t at all what lambic should be about, as it functions as a classic beer style on a number of worthy levels.

Lambic is joyfully archaic, brewed from a mash of barley and unmalted wheat, hopped with (intentionally) stale hops as preservatives, then transferred after boiling to large, flat, rectangular pans (“cool ships”) for overnight exposure to all the wild yeast the Belgian breeze can muster.

Aging takes place in oak barrels previously used for wine, sherry or port. Unblended lambics are rare, but occasionally found within Belgium, and sometimes exported. Generally, batches of young and old lambic are blended to achieve individual house character, yielding Gueuze.

If fruit is added, as in the cases of local cherries (kriek) or raspberries (framboise or frambozen), a second fermentation occurs. Ideally, no sugar is added. The flavor characteristics of lambic, even with fruit added in the traditional manner, are dry and musty, and often with the tell-tale wild yeast aroma charmingly referred to as “horsehair blanket.” Bottle-conditioning provides effervescence.

Last year I became possessed of the notion that my Lindemans drinkers needed to be exposed to the flavors, textures and sheer olfactory jolt to be derived from lambic, and gently guided beyond their fruity comfort level.

The major obstacle to this intended enlightenment was the price asked for a bottle of Cantillon, Hanssens or Drie Fonteinen, so for the first time ever, we veered away from the usual “festival of draft beer” approach and devoted two evenings to pouring lambic by the glass.

Along with the usual Lindemans flavored lambics, we rounded up a case of Lindemans Cuvee Rene, ten Cantillon styles, three vintages of Drie Fonteinen and three or four Hanssens, with the total coming to 22, and procured rubber wine stopper caps from Old Mill Liquors. Prices were calculated and pricing tiers established. The tasting began ... and after quality control was finished, a few ounces remained for the paying customers.

It all worked so well that there’ll be a reprise this June, with the exact date to be announced later, after special orders have been confirmed.

Now, if we could just lay our hands on a truckload of mussels ...

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