It's all about the beer and finding your way to it

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Evolution of Beer Appreciation

It was nearly three years ago in a small restaurant in Gent where the sip of a glass at the dinner table resulted in the exclamation of: "That's terrible!". It was a glass of Hanssen's Oude Gueuze. Those words came from my father in law upon tasting this style of beer native to Belgium and regarded by many beer connoisseurs as one of the most complex and interesting styles that exist.
Gueuze is created by blending different vintages of lambic and then continued aging to create an astoundingly  complex but challenging beer. It is very tart and puckering and often has a note of earthiness to it. The lambic used to make gueuze is brewed using wild yeast that, traditionally, is carried in the air in the Senne Valley south of Brussels. Aged hops are also a hallmark of lambic, used to impart the preservative quality of the hops but without the flavor. This allows the tart nature of the wild fermentation to shine through. Lambics are brewed and then aged from one to three years to let the wild yeast do their work. Gueuze comes from the blending of various ages and batches of lambic to create a new beer that is considerably different from a straight lambic. This is a skill mastered by a gueuze blender, skill of experience. The gueuze is now ready to sit and continue to mature. It can wait for upwards of 20 years under the right conditions.

Back to the point of this story (which has a happy ending). Since that time of the first sip in Gent, through the tasting of more and more complex beers, I can report that earlier this month my father in law drank and enjoyed numerous glasses of lambic and gueuze at cafes around Brussels.

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