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Tag Archives: Lambic

Maggies-3D-Can_TransparentBeer is a many splendor thing, whether it is in the form of an IPA, stout, kolsch or pale ale, there is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of flavors to choose from. And craft beer lovers like it that way. All one has to do is pay attention to the weekly offerings at many of the local breweries to see that mid-week most offer a variation to one of their current brews. Be it an herb-infused saison or an IPA aged on fruit, variety is the name of the game.

One of the hottest emerging trends in the world of craft beer is fruit-infused brew. Sure, the Belgians have had fruit in their beer for more than a century. Breweries such as Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels created Framboise (raspberry) and Kriek (cherry) lambics more than 100 years ago. Lambics are a style of ale that is not inoculated with yeast; instead it is allowed to spontaneously ferment from yeast present in the air that gets to the beer via open air cooling vessels often located on the roof or the top floor of the brewery that is open to the outside.

As a modern phenomenon, fruit beers come in several iterations; fruit additions to typical styles like IPAs and stouts, styles that have traditionally included fruit or fruit syrup additions like Berliner Weisse and hybrid styles that are created specifically to highlight fruit flavors like apple ales.

A trip to your local beer monger will reveal an ever-increasing shift towards fruit-flavors in familiar styles. The highly-rated IPA Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewing Company of San Diego, Calif. now comes in a wide array of fruit flavors like grapefruit, pineapple and even habanero (yes, peppers are technically fruits). Another style that has had the fruit-infusion treatment is farmhouse ale. This style, akin to saison, has been refreshingly imbued with peach by Terrapin Beer Company of Athens, Ga. in their Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse. Wheat beers are also frequently amped up with fruit flavors. Traditional Belgian wheat beers often include orange peel in the brewing process, but American brewers like 21st Amendment have upped the ante by adding watermelon in their Hell or high Watermelon.

Berliner Weisse, a German sour wheat beer, was traditionally served with raspberry (Himbeersirup) syrup to balance the tartness. Today brewers create their own riffs of the style by adding fruit directly in the beer during fermentation. Locally in Jacksonville, Aardwolf Brewing Company has created several variations of their Lactic Zeppelin Berliner Weisse with guava and passionfruit.

Samuel Smith’s The Old Brewery in Tadcaster, England produces several fruit beers that defy any other style categorization. One of their best is Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry a spontaneously fermented brew with tart and sour flavors similar to a Belgian lambic. The addition of strawberry juice adds some sweetness to balance the flavors. But, perhaps the fastest growing flavor among fruit beers is apple. With the growing popularity of hard cider, companies like Redd’s (part of the Miller Brewing Company) are capitalizing on the fruit beer trend. Available in several flavors, Redd’s is an apple-flavored beverage that is brewed like a beer rather than simply fermented like a cider.

Whether you are a purist and think beer should taste like, well, beer or a progressive and accept the current flood of fruit beers hitting the market, one fact is certain; brewers are going to keep experimenting with new fruits and flavors. You may as well relax, fill a cooler with ice and add some refreshing fruit-infused brews for enjoying on the back porch on the coming hot summer nights.

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Zwanze Day 2016 to be hosted a Playalinda Brewing Company’s Brix Project

zwanze-day-2016Aficionados of sour brews are sure to recognize the name of Brussels, Belgium brewer Cantillion. The brewer is renowned for creating some of the world’s best lambic brews and its brewery is always on the itinerary when visiting Belgium. Back in 2008, Cantillion brewed and bottled the first of a special series of beers dubbed Zwanze, a word that refers to a sarcastic sense of humor in the Brussels dialect.

That first beer – a special lambic with rhubarb added – led to more in the series created with untraditional ingrediants, thus Zwanze. As the beers became more and more sought-after, Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy used his Zwanze series to bring lambic enthusiasts together around the world for Zwanze Day.

At first the celebrations were sporadic and unscheduled. They depended on who could get the brews and when they could be procured. But, in 2011, the Zwanze series was released to select bars and taverns simultaneously world-wide. Zwanze Day had been born and has grown every year since.

playalindaThis year the celebration will take place on Saturday, October 1 and include more than 60 establishments, 27 in the United States. The closest venue to Jacksonville this year is Playalinda Brewing Company in Titusville, Fla. The event will be hosted at the brewery’s new Brix Project building.

With this release, Cantillon is looking to their past for the recipe of the Zwanze Day brew. Thirty years ago Cantillon created a framboise, a lambic aged on raspberries. Back in the ’80s they used fresh fruit that lost its color quickly and often made filtration difficult, so cherries were also used to help maintain some rosiness and act as a secondary filter bed beneath the raspberries. Vanilla was also added to round out the brew. But when more modern techniques were perfected to maintain color Cantillon began producing Rosé de Gambrinus with 100% raspberries. With Zwanze 2016, the brewery decided to give a nod to the raspberry/cherry blend, but used blueberries instead of cherries.

Additionally, several other Cantillon lambics will be available at the event including:

  • Gueuze: a blend of one, two and three year old lambics.
  • Kriek: two year old blended lambic with sour cherries.
  • Mamouche: lambic blended with elderflowers.
  • Iris Grand Cru: an unblended three-year-old version of the brewery’s Iris lambic. Only pale malt is used in the mash along with plentiful hops.
 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Beer, Beer Releases

 

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Sour beers a taste worth acquiring

Brettanomyces, also known as "Brett"...

Brettanomyces, also known as “Brett”, is a yeast strain commonly found in red Burgundy wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Want to see a grown brewmaster shake in his boots? Just bring a vial of Brettanomyces into his brewery and toss it up into the air a few times. Brettanomyces is a strain of yeast that, given the opportunity, will absolutely take over a brewery and infect every surface, fermentation tank, and bottle in the place. In most beers, the organism can produce undesirable sour or acidic off-flavors. But, to a brave few brewers, those off-flavors are a source of complex and often delicious artistry.In Belgium, sour beers are nothing new. For centuries brewers have been crafting brews that are sour, acidic and utterly delightful. One such style that has been gaining ground in the United States is Flanders Red, an aged ale that obtains its sour characteristics from Brettanomyces or lactic acid. An excellent example of this style is Rodenbach.

Another Belgian sour style is Lambic, a spontaneously fermented brew that is aged for a minimum of three years before leaving the brewery. Because the yeast that inoculates this brew is only found in Belgium in and around Brussels, the style cannot be made anywhere else. The brew that results from the combination of wild yeast inoculation, aging, and blending is powerfully sour and yet refreshingly bracing. The brew is often fermented with various fruits to produce sweet and sour combinations such as kreik (cherry), framboise (raspberry), and peche (peach).

But, back to Brettanomyces. Brett, as it is called by many in-the-know beer aficionados, competes with brewer’s yeast, and other microorganisms, in fermenting the wort, giving the beer a distinctive sour taste. The yeast is notoriously difficult to clean and can easily get out of control and colonize a brewery spoiling other beers that are not supposed to taste sour. In fact, the yeast strain is considered a spoilage organism in the wine-making industry that can impart “sweaty saddle leather”, “barnyard”, “burnt plastic” or “band-aid” aromas to wine. But, in beer, the yeast can create aromas one might consider musty, and flavors that are often described as funky.

Brett turns beer sour by eating the sugars that are left in beer by normal brewer’s yeasts. The result is a sour-tasting brew that is something of an acquired taste. Other organisms that bring on the funk in beer include lactobacillus (also found in fermenting yoghurt too) and pediococcus, which  provide sour, tart notes and acetobacter, which gives a beer vinegary component.

The best way to decide if you like these unusual, yet rewarding brews is to seek one out and just give it a try. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy the labors of the little beasties that some might call an infection while others might call a blessing. Just be careful if you do decide to toss around a vial of Brett, you certainly would not want to cause your local brewmaster to ban you from his brewery.

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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Beer, Beer Education

 

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To Cellar or not to Cellar, That is the Question

Belgian Ale

Belgian Ale (Photo credit: Accidental Hedonist)

Beer in any form, bottled, canned, or kegged, does have a definite shelf life. However, some beers can survive, and even thrive for an extended period of time. Just like wine, beer can be cellared, it just depends on the beer and the conditions in which you keep them.

First, all beers are not created the same: Budweiser, Coors, and the like will not age well. They are meant to be drank immediately and only last 2-3 months. That is why the big brewers have made such a big deal about things like “Born on Date.” The beers that do age well are big IPAs, Barleywines, Strong Belgian Ales, Imperials Stouts, Lambics, and Old Ales. These brews tend to mature and gain complexity as they age. The tannins and hop bite mellows and the malt character takes on a rich caramel character in IPAs and Imperial brews, while Belgian Ales tend to get thicker and more robust. Lambics are a special category all their own, most are not even released for consumption until they have aged for three or more years.

Beer in any form, bottled, canned, or kegged, does have a definite shelf life. However, some beers can survive, and even thrive for an extended period of time. Just like wine, beer can be cellared, it just depends on the beer and the conditions in which you keep them.

First, all beers are not created the same: Budweiser, Coors, and the like will not age well. They are meant to be drank immediately and only last 2-3 months. That is why the big brewers have made such a big deal about things like “Born on Date.” The beers that do age well are big IPAs, Barleywines, Strong Belgian Ales, Imperials Stouts, Lambics, and Old Ales. These brews tend to mature and gain complexity as they age. The tannins and hop bite mellows and the malt character takes on a rich caramel character in IPAs and Imperial brews, while Belgian Ales tend to get thicker and more robust. Lambics are a special category all their own, most are not even released for consumption until they have aged for three or more years.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Beer, Beer Education

 

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Sour Beer, Warm People

Traditional wooden lambic barrels; the L on th...

Image via Wikipedia

Back in late February and early March of this year, I had the opportunity and pleasure to take a nine day pilgrimage to the Mecca of beer: Belgium. While I was there I tasted nearly 50 different beers and fell in love with nearly all of them. But, even with the astounding variety and selection available in that great country, my mind kept wandering back to the first beer I tried – just a couple of hours off the airplane – in Brussels.

I found myself wandering in the city center historical district as night fell and the city began to light up and transform into a magical fairy tale land. It was damp with the near constant mist that this part of the world gets and the air was cold on its way to frigid. I wrapped my jaunty red scarf around my neck and snuggled into my wool coat as I walked through the cityscape.

At last I found myself standing in front of a bar that looked both inviting and adventurous. Sitting at tables outside the place were several patrons sipping at their beers, seemingly oblivious to the elements, laughing and joking. I stepped inside and was immediately awed at the bar with it brass beer tower running the length of it. There had to be 40 taps, all with Belgian beers, all calling my name.

But, before I had left the United States I made a pact with myself to try a specific type of beer first upon arrival in Belgium. I wanted a beer that was out-of-the-ordinary for a wayward gentleman from Jacksonville, FL. Something that was rare if not non-existent back home. I had promised myself a gueuze as my first Belgian brew.

Gueuze is often referred to as the champagne of the beer world for its effervescent, acidic, and very dry flavor. It is also a brew that is extremely limited in production as it can only be produced in a very small geographic area immediately south of Brussels, Belgium. The reason for this is two-fold. First, gueuze is a spontaneously fermented beer, meaning that yeast is not added by the brewer; rather wild yeast is allowed to inoculate the beer while it cools in a large, open copper tub usually in a room on the upper levels of the brewery with open windows to let the yeast blow in. This yeast is only found in the river valley of the Sienne near Brussels. The second reason that gueuze can only be produced in this region is that Belgian and European law governs the production of this beer and allows it only in the designated appellation region.

To understand why this beer is so special and why I chose it as my first beer in Belgium, you need to have an understanding of what it takes to make this unusual beverage. It goes beyond the spontaneous fermentation; there is also an extensive aging process. Gueuze is a blend of several lambic beers that have been aged in either oak or chestnut barrels. Lambics require an extensive amount of time to fully ferment – up to three years. Gueuze is made of older, three-year-old lambics blended with younger one- and two-year-old brews. The older beer imparts the majority of the flavor and aroma characters while the younger brews supply sugars to restart the fermentation process. A good gueuze will be allowed to ferment at least one additional year, but unlike most beers, this brew can be cellared and aged for up to 20 years. The flavor will mellow and deepen, just as a wine’s, the longer it spends in the cellar.

Back in Brussels, I sat near the end of the bar and smiled at the pretty waitress sitting two stools down at the end. Later we struck up a lively conversation about beer and how different American beer was from Belgian. The bartender asked in French what I would like to drink, when he realized I was American he switched seamlessly to English and repeated his query. I explained what I had decided and asked for him to make a suggestion. I immediately went to a tap and drew a tulip glass of a deep golden liquid with a slight haze; he made sure that the pour had a rich head that he scraped even to the top of the glass with a beer knife. Before he sat it down he looked at me and asked if I was sure I wanted this beer, he warned that it was very different than any other beer I have ever tasted. I assured him that that was what I wanted and he set it down in front of me. He explained that I was about to taste one of the best gueuze beers brewed in Belgium: Cantillon Lou Pepe gueuze.

The pretty waitress watched with a mischievous smile as I smelled the beer. My eyes must have gotten quite wide as the waitress and other staff let out a small laugh at my expense. The aroma filled my nose with a plethora of surprises. I could smell sour apple and grape along with vinegar and grass. There were notes of cherry and, of all things, a musty old blanket that evoked a barn in the summer; not unpleasant, more reassuring and homey. There was also the famous Belgian funk, a smell that is hard to describe, but easily identified when you smell it.

I brought the glass to my lips and took my first sip. An explosion went off in my mouth as the intensely sour flavor of the beer shocked my uneducated palate before it mellowed and flavor nuances began to unfold. I could begin to taste the sour apple and fruit flavors my nose had detected, but I also noticed oak from the aging barrels along with citrus notes from the hops. Lemon rind and earthy notes began to creep into the sweet, clean finish. Again, the staff laughed, but it was a friendly laugh, welcoming and knowing. They all could tell that that first sip had hooked me and gueuze had just shot to the top of my list of favorite beers.

Anais, the waitress, informed me that most Americans do not react as I did. Most take a sip of a gueuze and immediately ask for something else. After a brief burst of French conversation with the rest of the staff that had gathered around (it was a very slow night in the bar), she announced that my first few beers, including the gueuze were on the house if I agreed to allow them to suggest my next few choices. I readily agreed and, for the next couple of hours, had a delightful evening tasting new beers and making new friends.

Some gueuze to look for and try:

Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic, Brasserie Cantillon
Aromas of the barn with pleasant funk and lemon. Flavor of lime with an acidic, tart finish.

Oude Gueuze, Hanssens Artisanaal
Citrus, oak, and florals on the nose. Big wood and earth on first sip with a sour apple, dry finish.

St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition, Brouwerij Van Honesebrouck
This golden amber brew smells of tart lemon and green apple. The flavor is sour, fruity, and funky.

At the end of the evening I understood why many people fall in love with the country of Belgium. It certainly isn’t for the weather; it’s for the people and their passionate love of beer. These people were friendly beyond anything I had experienced before. They embraced a fellow beer lover and ushered me into their world of extraordinary beers with a fervor that was astounding. They were remarkable in every way and I can’t wait to go back again.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Belgian

 

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