The world of Lambics, Gueuze & Wild Ales
First time I tried a Gueze was at a homebrew club in London - I was hooked from the first sip ,having said that these beers are an acquired taste. You will most definitely find us in the shop raving about their complexity and how they are spontaneously or Wild fermented.
It is the untamed quality that makes these beers one of the most exciting to drink - they can shock at first sip - and seduce to the point of obsession anyone who truly loves sensory exploration.
As beer writer Michael Jackson put it “Wild beer is like live music versus recorded sound”. We couldn’t agree more.
Wild yeast live everywhere, in the air, on our skins, on fruit skins - these magical micro organisms have given us bread, cheese, wine, beer, fermented foods, vinegar. We used to live off a diet that harnessed the power of wild yeast until we knew they existed and began to select certain breeds and culture them.
The road to from wild to cultured has spawned over processed food - we prefer sourdough bread to a supermarket loaf and farmhouse cheese to one that lives in plastic. Fresh fruit on a tree is much more enticing than when we see it out of season on a supermarket shelf. These reasons are parallel why we love all things natural when it comes to drinks, be it beer or wine.
What is Spontaneous Fermentation?
Spontaneous fermentation is what happens when a brewer, winemaker, or distiller leaves the inoculation which is when yeast and/or bacteria come in contact with the liquid, up to whatever micro organisms happen to be in the air or on the fruit that they are fermenting. This is different from the process of most mass-produced booze, where industrialized, controlled yeast strains are deliberately poured in. Brewers don’t know exactly what’s ending up in the beer or wine or cider. All they know is that the fermentation will be, as advertised, spontaneous, wild. Brewers expose the beer as it’s cooling down to whatever is floating around in the air enabling a “complex web of life to exist and thrive,” says Boldt.
it’s the oldest method of making booze. Before humans knew what yeast, bacteria, or ride-sharing apps were, they made party liquids by letting fruit juice or sugary water hang around in big jugs until something happened.
It wasn’t until the 17th century, when a Dutch scientist named Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (great name, btw) observed microorganisms under a magnifying lens that we even knew that these little things existed. And it wasn’t until Louis Pasteur actually discovered how yeast works in 1859 that we realized the role it played in fermentation.
Can You Make a Lambic Outside of Belgium?
Most Belgian brewers do not consider spontaneously fermented beer made outside of Belgium, specifically the area around Brussels and the Zenne river valley, to be true lambics.
Lambics & Gueze - these can only be referred to as Lambics & Gueze if they hail from a specific region in Belguim, they have gained a TSG, Traditional Speciality Guaranteed which protects its name so you are only allowed to call it Lambic or Gueze if it come from the Pajottenland and the Valley of the Senne region in Belgium
If a beer wears the label Wild Ale it is made in a traditional way inspired by Lambics and Gueze but comes from outside of Belgium like Burning Sky beers or Jester King brewery who specialise in this way of making beer.
Another word for Lambic Style Beers outside of the region, Wild Ales, Spontaneously fermented or in the US they use Coolship on their labels.
Lambics vs Gueuze vs Krieks vs Framboise ?
Lambic is the all-encompassing term for the style. Many lambics are actually gueuzes, which is a blend of three different ages of lambic.=
Commonly, a brewer will add additional fruit during the fermentation process. If you add raspberry the beer becomes a Framboise. Cherry then it’s a Kriek. Then you have apple (pomme), peach (peche), and many more.
What do they taste like ?
The topic of lambic beer is complicated and convoluted, so it’s important to remember that all these brewing techniques ultimately create a unique tasting beer.
Yes the first sip can be a shock, try a second sip for your pallet to acclimatise and the results can be very rewarding , here is a break down of what to expect.
Lambics, these are young and usually blended with fruit, they are tart and can have a vinegar quality to them think Kombucha, very moorish.
Gueuze is a blend of one year old lambic and three year old lambic, they are then bottle conditioned furthering the maturation and allowing more flavours ot develop- these are much more complex yes there is tart fruit there but dig deeper and you will come across earthy notes, leather, touch barnyard, fermented fruit rinds - this is a very grown up drink.
Depending on the age of the beer the taste can range from tart, tangtastic almost haribo sweets. Once aged you can get the oak, some vanilla, woody notes and once brettanomyces has done its thing (or brett for short ) you can get leather notes, barnyard, earthy, musty. The wild side nature is what makes this beers so
Four to try
These drinks go very well on a dinner table considering taking one of these home
Brouwerij Boon, Mariage parfait a lovely entry level into the world of gueuze. Mariage parfait is boons perfectly blended gueuze.
3 Fonteinen Oude Gueze - a stalwart in the world of lambics & gueuze, he is a guezerie as well as a brewer.
Gueuzerie Tilquin Oude Mirabelle à l’Ancienne 20 | 21, this is plummy tart and very good with fatty foods
Lambiek Fabriek Black Belle one of the younger players on the scene, this is blackcurrant lambic absolutely gorgeous with some duck or venison and of course with a cheeseboard.