Beer 101

Lambic Beer: Belgium’s Wild Side

In the heart of Belgium lies a beer style as unique as the region it hails from. Lambic beer, deeply rooted in the Pajottenland and the Zenne Valley and the city of Lembeek, offers a brewing narrative that diverges markedly from other beer styles. Its unparalleled brewing process, the indispensable role of its geographical origins, and the preservation of time-honoured practices all contribute to the distinctiveness of Lambic. Esteemed breweries like Brewery Boon have played a pivotal role in maintaining these traditions, while up-and-comers like Lambiek Fabriek are injecting new life into the ancient craft.

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Unveiling Lambic Beer

The essence of Lambic beer lies in its spontaneous fermentation, a feature that sets it apart in the world of beer. Unlike the controlled yeast fermentation of most beers, Lambic relies on wild yeast and bacteria naturally present in the Pajottenland air. These microorganisms initiate a unique fermentation process when the wort, cooled in open-air vats called coolships, comes into contact with them. This encounter gives Lambic its characteristic tart, funky flavour and multifaceted aroma.

A Brewing Dance with the Elements

Crafting Lambic beer is a reflection of patience and tradition. It all starts with a mix of unmalted wheat and malted barley, enhanced with aged hops for preservation rather than bitterness. This blend is then boiled and cooled overnight in open-air vats called coolships, welcoming wild yeast and bacteria from the air. This crucial step initiates a unique, slow fermentation process in wooden barrels, giving Lambic its distinctive flavour and complex aroma.

Lambic’s identity is deeply connected to its origin. Just like Champagne can only come from its namesake region, true Lambic is exclusively brewed with the wild yeasts of the Pajottenland and the Zenne Valley region. This strict geographic link ensures the authenticity and preservation of Lambic, showcasing the critical role of the local terroir in shaping its unique characteristics.

Oude Geuze vs Kriek

Brewery Boon have been making Oude Geuze, a traditional, unsweetened and unfiltered lambic since 1975. It is particularly loved for its gentle flavour and mild tartness. Its secret? Everything starts with the Lambic beer that is brewed from 60% malt and 40% wheat and is then 100% matured in oak barrels.

Oude Geuze Boon is a blend of Lambics that have matured for 1, 2 and 3 years. It is bottled and then given another several months of bottle conditioning. This secondary fermentation process creates extra complex flavours with a rich sparkle that produces a nice head when served. The bottle conditioning is also what makes the Lambic blend a genuine Oude Geuze.

Kriek, by contrast, is a fruit Lambic that gains its character and colour from the addition of sour cherries, resulting in a beer that’s both tart and deeply aromatic.

Kriek Boon is a spontaneously fermented beer made from old and young Lambic matured in oak barrels. Boon only use real, fresh cherries to make this pure Kriek beer without adding any concentrates and is made with no less than 250 grams of fresh cherries per litre. The fermentation of these cherries with the young Lambic beer gives Kriek Boon its fine authentic taste.

The cherries we use to make Kriek Boon are carefully harvested. They are cleaned immediately after harvesting: the stalks and leaves are removed and only the cherries and their pits remain. The cherries are frozen immediately and stored in our special cold store.

Beyond Kriek, this adaptability extends to other fruits like raspberries (Framboise), peaches (Pêche), or even apples (Pomme), though Kriek remains a timeless favourite for its bold character and the way it complements the Lambic’s inherent sweetness and sourness.

Blenders vs Brewers: What’s the Difference?

Brewers are the artisans who initiate the Lambic journey, creating the wort through a traditional brewing process. This includes mixing the grains, boiling the mixture with aged hops, and then allowing the wort to cool in open-air coolships where it’s naturally inoculated with wild yeasts and bacteria. A crucial aspect of their role is not only brewing but also blending their own batches of Lambic to achieve desired flavours.

Blenders, contrastingly, do not brew the wort themselves. They source this pre-fermented wort, rich with the potential for complexity from brewers, and take over from the point of ageing. The wort is transferred to the blenders’ barrels the morning after brewing, marking the beginning of its transformation.

Each brewery and blender bring a unique flavour and edge to the category through the very subtle differences in oak barrels, aging, and fruit additions. This nuanced approach to both brewing and blending illustrates the dynamic and collaborative spirit of the Lambic beer community.

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