Tuesday, 29 August 2017

#340: Fruit Shoots

Long before a perfectly sculpted beard juiced a grapefruit into a bog standard IPA, fruited beer was a thing. One of the places in which it was most definitely a thing is the Payottenland in Belgium.

Raspberries and cherries are the most traditional lambic additions and the crowning bottle in the cupboard for some time has been Drie Fonteinen's Intense Red. This is a particularly young lambic with cherries and boy does it shine.

It pours clear as crystal with a vibrant pink/purple head that dies near instantly. Thereafter it's a beautiful expression of kriek; pure, fresh fruit with the perfect balance of acidity and soft sweetness. There's a cherry cola thing that opens for the ripe tartness that acts as an enhancement of the usual cherry sherbert stuff. It's gorgeous and vinous without any wood character or maturity, pushing the fruit to the fore above all else.
Wonderful stuff.
A different, more conventional kind of kriek comes in the form of Oud Beersel's Oude Kriek Vieille. It's clear and dark red and produces a burst of sour cherry right from the beginning. There are shades of almondy depth in behind, giving a weirdly filling impression of tart cherry marzipan. This particular bottle was a good deal older than one I had at Christmas last and that satisfying depth and weight is something the younger bottle lacked. Apple skin tannins mop up the finish, adding points for drinkability that may have been lost amid the complexity. 
Contrary to what I would expect with a fruited beer, this one seemed better for having lay about for five years, where the fresh bottle (not on the blog) was an admittedly fruitier but ultimately more pedestrian affair.

Things get wyrd again with Hannssens Experimental Raspberry Lambic, though truth be told I'm not exactly sure what's supposed to be experimental about it. Perhaps it is simply the decision not to call it a framboise.

In any case, it is still as death and super sour, its tawnied-pink appearance looking - and perhaps smelling - more like a raspberry vinaigrette than anything else. Thankfully the fruit on the palate is actually quite clean and fresh-tasting, almost fun, before an acid bath spoilsport takes away any of the refreshing joy I usually find in good lambic. It's worth dabbling in, if only for the one, but the sheer sour power makes it a bit too much like hard work for my liking.
No fruit goes into Blossomgueuze, second in a series of weird lambics made by Lindemans. The producers have presumably saved the elderberries for jam and instead used elderflower to flavour this geuze. It pours surprisingly clear in the burnished gold tones of filtered Czech lager. Add to that a hint of a skunky nose and you have a wobble start indeed. However, all of this is forgotten with an intense sour attack of mouth-filling, citric acid-laden wheat. There are flowery elements, but not in any overtly elderflowery sort of way; if I hadn't been told there was elderflower in it, I would certainly not have guessed. This is almost a relief, as I had worried about dodgy over-flavourings before I opened the bottle. Most surprising of all is a note of juicy, tart mango that comes from nowhere into the finish and aftertaste, combining wonderfully with the lemon acidity of the beer and leaving you with the impression of having just had some fresh tropical and citrus fruit. 

Fresh, bright, delicious; this is refreshing, drinkable and eminently fun lambic, and even if the elderflower didn't assert itself as elderflower, in the end Lindemans have just made a fantastic geuze.

Monday, 21 August 2017

#339: Geuzzards

Mothership Boon is upon us and the obvious place to start for me is with one of my favourite beers ever, Black Label.

Black Label is an annual release that is intended to be the driest geuze from the Boon stable, which sounds right about my style.

An explosive opening leads the way for a crystal clear appearance with big soapy bubbles. The nose gets mouth-watering sour candy and the palate gets a thorough scouring with plenty of sourness and effervescence. It is beautifully dry, but not distinctively more than good geuze from the likes of Drei Fonteinen or Cantillon. 

It's quenching and refreshing and despite the strength (7% this iteration), relatively light of body.

More full-bodied is Geuze Mariage Parfait. I already spoke about the kriek in this range and it's a surprise even to me that the geuze hasn't featured on the blog, considering it's a regular feature in the fridge. Like the Black Label it has a high ABV, though a notch higher at 8%, and also like the Black Label it drinks far easier than it should, though it does have a bigger body. There's plenty of wheaty fullness and citrus fruits with another bone dry finish. 

These two are my favourite Boon beers and two of my favourite lambics full stop. As wonderfully simple and well-executed as good lambic can be.

Up next, fruit.

Friday, 4 August 2017

#338: Geuze of the World

This post heralds the beginning of a relentless jettisoning of tasting notes concerning that most appropriate of summer beer styles - and a personal favourite style of mine - geuze. At least, mostly geuze, as I will of course deviate from time to time to include anything in the lambic bracket. The notebook is positively heaving with the fruits of my ongoing obsession with Payottenland produce, so lets just get through this.

Top of the queue is De Troch's Cuvée Chapeau Lambic Oude Geuze, if that's really what they're calling it. The lack of that pleasing 'pop' of the cork suggested a low level of carbonation that was confirmed by my strenuous efforts to conjure any foam into existence.
Sure enough it's flat in the mouth with a much softer acidity than I'd expect. In fact, it's quite round, as these things go; plenty of straw and wheat pad out the body before a full, pungent and earthy finish.
This relative lack of meaningful fizz gives the beer a sense of weight that makes it less refreshing than other geuze. Despite this, there's a lot to like about Cuvée Chapeau; it's a particularly musty lambic, suggesting age and recalling to mind memories of summer in an old family haunt in Lispole, all old furniture and country air.
Pangs of nostalgia aside, the big takeaway from the beer itself is of that aforementioned pungency and lovely bloomy, mushroomy finish.
Curious stuff and well worth investigation, even if I do likes em fizzier.

Much more my speed is Moriau Oude Geuze, a brand I'd never heard of before that, a quick Google tells me, is made by geuze wizards (geuzzards?) Boon.
This is more my kind of geuze; a good deal more effervescent, slightly cloudy and with a patently gritty, wheaty nose. It's gorgeously balanced with citrusy acidity and a pillowy wheaty fullness that makes it easy to drink but substantial and satisfying. Almost a quaffer, in total defiance of its 7% wattage. Slight shades of Boon's own Mariage Parfait on show here.

Dekoninck Oude Gueuze a l'Ancienne, also from Boon, is the simplest of the lot, being a total quaffer with the fizz and buzz and acid all doing a good job adding up to an easy-drinking lambic, if a touch on the lighter side. It tastes younger than all of the above, though my perception could of course be way off. In any case, it's just not got the same satisfying heft as the Moriau above, or indeed other good geuzes.

Another unknown brand came my way in the form of St Louis Geuze Fond Tradition, though at the time of drinking I wasn't aware of its credentials and thought I'd paid good money for FAKE GEUZE.

Thankfully, the nose suggests it's authentic stuff; sour citrus and wheat, and those hallmarks in the flavour too. There's also something bigger and deeper at work here - a sort of burn or rubbery thickness that top shelf geuze does without.
The finish brings it back on track, with a bizarrely candy-fake fruitiness keeping things on the cheerful side, and the whole thing never loses its characteristic geuzey grist.
It's grand, but not Grand.

To step closer to the light from which most of these came, the next post (in this series) will feature some mothership Boon brands.