Wednesday, June 21, 2006

2006 Lambic by the Glass: One evening only, this coming Saturday, at Rich O's.

Our third Lambic by the Glass tasting will be held this Saturday, June 24, in the Prost annex (enter at the Rich O’s door, and turn right). I plan on starting the event at 3:00 p.m., and juggling samples until 11:00 p.m.

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

The object remains as before: Comparing and contrasting spontaneously-fermented lambics from Belgium by means of multiple bottles and small (4-oz) pours from Drie Fonteinen, Cantillon, Hanssens and Lindemans.

In 2006, there’ll actually be one draft lambic: Cantillon Gueuze.

In addition, Belgian-themed food will be a part of the tasting this year, and the menu items are coming together as I write. Unfortunately, not having a deep fryer on site means foregoing frites, but so be it. We'll think of something, and as soon as it's settled, I'll post it.

After much thought, I’ve decided not to release an advance list of selections to be tasted on Saturday. The list is largely as it's been in the past, although there’ll be a surprise, and maybe two. I’d rather wing it, pull out a dozen or so representative bottles to start, and see where the attendees and their taste buds take it.

Yes: I’ll definitely be there the entire time to pour and disseminate information. Last year, I scheduled myself to be four places in two days, and this year the calendar was consulted first.

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.

In 2004, 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 other lambics, 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.

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


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).

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