I’m an idiot when it comes to beer and especially toward Lambic but the same goes for most of us and some of the same questions come up at tastings…almost every single tasting. Here are some misconceptions I’ve seen over the last 6 months.
- Only Lambic from Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen and Tilquin is worth buying
- Cantillon “Organic Gueuze”, “100% Lambic Bio” or “Classic Gueuze” are all different beers
- Everything from Boon, Timmermans, Mort Subite and Hanssens is not worth buying (sweetened and fake flavored or not real Lambic)
I may be stupid but at least I can help with clarifying some of these. Keep in mind Lambic Rumors change every time you hear them. These sort of things change all of the time. So keep that in mind. I’m trying to give factual set in stone info here based on traveling and reading. I’m sure the Lambic Lovers will comment below if I get something wrong.
Cantillon only uses the Lambic they brew for their Gueuze. Tilquin and 3 Fonteinen (Drie) use Lambic from other breweries. Specifically Boon & Lindemans go into 3 Fonteinen Gueuze and Tilquin is the only Gueuzerie that uses those 2 producers’ Lambic + Lambic from Cantillon (not a lot, by the way as Cantillon is one of the smallest components of Tilquin Gueuze and I believe getting smaller every season)
So when you say Lindeman’s and Boon have crappy Lambic…keep in mind the best Oude Gueuze on the market now (3 Fonteinen) uses their Lambic. The highest rated beers on RateBeer in Gueuze Blauw, Roze, etc use Lindeman’s lambic. It’s more about the blender’s talents than the juice itself.
Michael, a new partner of Armand’s (3 Fonteinen) is learning what makes a 3F Oude Gueuze what it is. He’ll be taking over 3F when Armand finally retires. I’ve heard from multiple people the Gueuze hitting shelves this fall will be Michael’s blends, not Armand’s but Armand is obviously still very involved.
Tilquin does not brew it’s own Lambic yet. 3 Fonteinen just started in December 2012 so within the next year, 3F Oude Gueuze will finally have their own Lambic in it for the first time since I think 2008. Someone correct me there, please.
What’s the difference between Cantillon Classic Gueuze (yellow label) and 100% Lambic Bio? Nothing. They’re exactly the same. Cantillon’s Gueuze that’s sold in the European Union meets the requirements to be classified as Bio-Organic. In the US, it does not so they use a different label here. They’re the same beer. I’ve heard people actually say that 100% Lambic Bio tastes better than Classic Gueuze. That’s impossible.
Most people that think anything that’s not 3F, Tilquin and Cantillon Lambic isn’t worth buying. Untrue but in a lot of ways, I can understand why they think that. Most Lambic is sweetened with syrupy candy flavorings, force carbonated and mixed with various juices to appeal to a broader audience. On my first visit to Belgium I ordered Kriek Max, a Lindeman’s product in a bar. It tasted terrible and all of the men around me laughed because “Only women drink Kriek” which is true. It’s a drink for girls who don’t like “men’s beer”. Just like Bud Light drinkers in America, women drink flavored wine coolers and real men drinking Bud Light. The non-beer geek of Belgium doesn’t know real lambic exists…they only know that Kriek is for girls and in a lot of ways, they’re right.
We don’t have Kriek Max in USA but we do have Boon Kriek and Framboise and Hanssens has a lot of various flavored lambic. You can guy crappy Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus and stuff like that and quickly realize that everything except for 3F, Tilquin and Cantillon sucks.
But you’re wrong.
The terms Oude Gueuze & Oude Kriek, within the European Union are protected under law. If you call your product this, you’ll need to meet some basic criteria. Boon Oude Kriek for example is nothing like Boon Kriek. Same for Mort Subite, Lindeman’s, Timmermans and Hanssens. All of these producers have crappy sweetened Lambic and most of them have a Kriek / Gueuze product(s) that are made the traditional way and they’re all quite good, drinkable, on shelves all over Belgium and much cheaper than Tilquin, 3 Fonteinen and Cantillon.
So if you see something called Oude Gueuze on a shelf, grab it and be amazed at how good it is. Cantillon’s gueuze actually scores dead last on my favorite in-production gueuze…actually i take that back. Moriau Gueuze is actually the worst. It’s a Boon product and it’s pretty bad.
In summary, don’t write off a Lambic maker because their non Oude products are bad. They’re supposed to appeal to people who like fruity sweet candy beers and that’s okay. Also, keep in mind that the best gueuze in the world uses Lambic from these supposed “crappy lambic makers”
One of the most enlightening moments for me when talking about Quality Lambic versus Quality Blending & care of Lambic (transfer, storage, aging, blending, carbonation) is at the Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation back in 2012. I got to try unblended Lambic from 12+ different producers. I’ve tried a few more since then but I was amazed at how great the Lambic was from some producers who don’t have that great of Oude Gueuze. Basically, the unblended is better than the final production blend. Why is this? The human element of creating Gueuze from Unblended Lambic is the failure point.
Looking at my own ratings of Unblended Lambic
You’ll see Timmermans, Mort Subite, Girardin and Cantillon score pretty highly. I’d probably rate Lindeman and Boon a bit higher now that I’ve had them a few times. These ratings are BS though because every single batch of Lambic during the brewing season (Winter time when it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) is different. Microbial effects, temperature, cooling time, the barrels used and many more variables. I’ve sampled from 5 different Cantillon barrels of Jonge Lambiek and each taste different. You’d need to sample hundreds of barrels from every producer to truly rate unblended Lambic..that’s my opinion, though. But this only reinforces my point that you can have a fantastic barrel of Lambic or a crappy one and the blender can make it to match the brewery’s profile. The human element is critical. So with time as brewers retire, things change, climate changes, brewery expands / moves to a new location and even things like different barrel producers change, the lambic and gueuze will change. This makes rating these bottles so difficult. Ideally, there’s a unique entry for every single bottle date of every single Lambic / Gueuze / Kriek from every producer.
That’ll never happen though.
I passed 1100 words so I should probably stop writing but I’ll try to do more posts like this as I find time. I think the discussions around what constitutes as Good Lambic is important. HORALs is doing a good job in a lot of ways but not so good in other ways and I think that’s another conversation entirely. Also, I didn’t proofread this one. So there are typos.