WARNING: This week’s beer style is NOT a “gateway beer”. I know… every blog post up ‘til now has been about a nice entryway into craft beer. But the beer geeks are getting restless – and you DON’T want to piss them off. They are HARD CORE.
Chances are, if you were the kid dropping all your allowance on the Sour Patch Kids, you’re gonna be down with a Fruit Lambic. The fruit-infused Lambic, or Lambiek (say it with me beer geeks, “lom-BEEK”) is not a beer you give your MGD-drinkin’ buddy, and expect to hear “Now that’s good beer, right thar!”
The only thing this style has in common with your fizzy American macros is that it will typically come with a born on date …(ok, two). Traditionally, Lambics are a blend of “new beer” (aged for ~6 months) and “old beer” (aged to ~3 years). The Fruit Lambics are also infused with fresh, whole fruit (or fruit syrup) which are added to the base lambic beer. The fruit is then fermented in the beer, as it is rich in fermentable sugars. Fruit lambics are commonly labeled with the type of fruit that they were blended with, such as Kriek (cherries), Pecheresse/Peche (peach), Framboise (raspberry), and Cassis (black currant). If you’re really into getting a more detailed history lesson on things like the Senne Valley region of Belgium and microbial flora, here are a few good links:
Fruit lambics bring a LOT to the table in terms of aromas and flavors – primarily dominated by fruity acidic tartness and sour pucker, but even some fresh country barnyard air – complete with horse blanket, hay, and sweat…. Mmmmm, sweat. This ain’t your grandpa’s Iron City.
Here’s the official description of the style from the Brewers’ Association:
“These beers, also known by the names framboise, kriek, peche, cassis, etc., are characterized by fruit flavors and aromas. The color reflects the choice of fruit. Sourness is an important part of the flavor profile, though sweetness may compromise the intensity. These flavored lambic beers may be very dry or mildly sweet and range from a dry to a full-bodied mouthfeel. Characteristic horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic character evolved from Brettanomyces yeast is often present at moderate levels. Vanillin and other woody flavors should not be evident. Versions of this beer made outside of the Brussels area of Belgium cannot be true lambics. These versions are said to be “lambic-style” and may be made to resemble many of the beers of true origin.”
With the fruit-infused lambics, you should really focus on the beginning and end of a meal. Lighter hors d’oeuvres like crackers and grapes, possibly a Waldorf salad, and definitely fruit-complementing desserts all go well. Cheesecakes, peach cobbler, and vanilla ice cream are fantastic with a Peche, or if you have a more robust, dark chocolate dessert, you’d do well with a Kriek or Framboise. If you’re cutting calories, there’s nothing wrong with finishing your meal by quaffing the fruity lambic all on it’s own.
Lambics will (should) always come in a corked bottle, and then either topped with a wire cage, or capped. With this much effort put into the bottling, you should also pour your lambic into the appropriate glassware – we recommend a Tulip or Flute.
To pour, begin gradually pouring down the side of the glass, and then finish the last half down the middle (also slowly, if you prefer less yeast sediment, and slightly clearer appearance). There will always be some chill haze due to the bacteria – but overall, these colorful creatures are a beaut to look at.
What to Buy
While there are a few brave American brewers making versions of the Lambic style, we suggest that you stick with the originals from Belgium. Here are 3 which can be found at (or ordered by) your better bottle shops and distributors in the area:
– Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, 5% ABV (Brussels, Belgium)
– De Ranke Kriek, 7% ABV (Wevelgem, Belgium)
– Lindemans Cassis, 4% ABV (Vlezenbeek, Belgium)