You’ll know from previous articles (Here and here) that I and a few of us at Beermerchants.com are big fans of Lambic and Gueuze style beers. So much so, it’s a close call if you were to say that if I had to pick between California or Payotenland, the home of this fantastic style of beer, I would really be stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
A recent trip to the hard place, to arrange for Gueuze for the site, Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, Girardin and De Cam – it’s always a pleasure… kinda…These are Beers of spontaneous fermentation are ales that use wild yeasts, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and Pediococus amongst others, rather than cultivated ones. All beer was once brewed this way, but by the Middle Ages brewers had learned to crop the yeast from one brew and use it in the next. Only in a few isolated regions were wild yeasts still used. The best-known region where spontaneous fermentation is still used is the Senne Valley in Belgium, where lambic is produced.
These are extraordinary beers, unlike any others you will encounter. If you do not know them then first taste will probably appal you. Lambic, the precursor of Gueuze, the epitomy of a gestalt, is something of a hedonistic brew that a real hardcore fanbase has sprung up around over the last 20 or so years, after once being an industry of a million hectolitres of beer a year!
Heading to Belgium is never a chore, especially when there is beer at the end of the rainbow but the recent weather, the delightful sub zero temperatures that awaited me weren’t that appealing. Wrapped up like an Eskimo I wandered off into the freezing beer coated lands of Belgium.
First port of call was the ever so fun “Pre-ZBF” – a cheeky little beer fest centred around some of Europe’s most envelope pushing brewers and breweries. The likes of BrewDog, Thornbridge common to many UK beer lovers lips, were accompanying De Molen, Struise, and Alvinne, stalwarts of the more experiential brewers scene in Europe, hosted in a picturesque mini-Castle in Oostkamp. It was great to see many friends, have a few beers in very small glasses and shoot the proverbial with such a fun and knowledgeable community. It was great to see Kelly, Martin, Urbain, Carlo, Dom and Janine, Menno and Davy and Glenn.
After that it was off to the Grote Dorst, a gueuze fest of the highest order, second only to the Weekend of Spontaneous Fermentation for the quality of beers that are available. A fine evening hanging with Angelo and Kim of Rateon, Shawn from Alpine, and many other friends and heroes. It was great to try the Alagash beers, hang out with so many people, even if it was dark, wet and very rainy! Yves really knows how to put on a spread.
After the excellent open brewday, then off to Girardin a wonderful clean family farm style establishment very much the near perfect gueuze, then off to Drie Fonteinen to hang out with the legend who is Amand Debelder, sharing a little jug of his “last” lambic and a wonderful Kriekenlambic, of course loading up with some of my all time favourite gueuze . We wandered around to the Oud Beersel, another lambic brewery that is slowly coming back to life after near closure some time ago – such is the change in fortunes that Lambic is showing now. We picked up a couple of different beers, including the Framboise, previously only available in the US.
Sunday was ZBF, Zythos beer fest. Much like the Grote Dorst, the same American faces. Had a great no-hopped sour beer, from De Dolle. The rest of the day is a bit sketchy, I kinda let my hair down.
So, on to Monday. Back to DeCam to see Karel, then back to Cantillon and we had beer, lots of it! Spending 5 minutes or 5 hours at these brewers probably excites me more than many things in the world, the talents of the likes of Karel Goddeau, Willem v.Herewegen, Armand and Frank Boon to name but a few that I spend time in the company of, picking their brains of this wonderful style of beer.
I was home, Tuesday morning, defrosted by Wednesday and the beers started were in depot to meet me. We’re slowly getting them on the site, as work has been very busy recently – with new projects happening.
Lambicland, is a handy resource to the area of Payotenland. a book by Tim Webb and Joris Pattyn.