RALEIGH, September 6, 2012 - Hopefully the craft beer store in your city or town organizes its rows or walls by either style or geographic region. Style is alright, but being exposed to the beers of different countries serves as a bottled commentary of the historical and cultural values of different places. Every row certainly has a story to tell, but I’ve always been wrapped up in the many sizes, labels and shapes that come from Belgium.
It’s no secret that Belgium is one of the premier beer countries of the world, known for extremely complex works specific to its different regions. I’ve been fortunate to give a taste to some of the Trappist ales that come from Belgium, plus plenty of Abbey ales made right in the States and elsewhere.
Giving a pass by the Belgian section is an adventure in itself, and no matter how many times I take a look, I am intimidated by the vast amount of work that comes out of the small European nation.
There was one style of beer that always caught my attention, but for reasons that are somewhat visceral to me, had prevented me from having the courage to buy and try. That style is gueuze, and the only resentment I have now is that I have waited this long to give it a shot.
Gueuze is a mixture of aged and newer lambic – a type of Belgian beer that is specific to the Senne (or Dutch: Zenne) Valley of Brussels. For one, lambics are nothing new. In fact the production can be dated back as far as the mid 1550’s according to Lindemans, one of the best-known producers of lambics in the world. The distinctive tartness can be attributed to the brewer’s yeast that goes into it (brettanomyces bruxullensis, brettanomyces lambicus).
If you’re going to give a gueuze a try, just be ready to experience a level of sourness and dry wine-like characteristics that you would never expect in a beer. If you’re looking for hops, you’re looking in the wrong place since while they are in the beer, their prevalence is not.
What you might expect to find however are oak hints that provide a good yet subtle balance.
The first one I have tried was Lindemans Cuvee Rene at the suggestion of Critter, who works at Tasty Beverage Co. here in Raleigh, NC. Apparently I wasn’t ready to try any of the other ones just yet, according to him. Alongside Cuvee Rene, the are plenty of other offerings in the gueuze department to gain access too. Some are even made here in the States, though I’m not so sure of the origin of the yeasts.
Typically I encourage fellow geeks to share unusual offerings at gathering to those who may not be as familiar, yet gueuze might be somewhat of a stretch. If you give the background on the beer before your friends or family try it, then they might be more inclined to try it out. Educating those who are interested in hearing about such treasures is advocating just plenty.
Out of Raleigh, NC, Mike Lamardo writes about the efforts behind everyone in the craft beer communties. Being not just a beer geek, he also writes articles for tech and entertainment blogs for like Verizon FiOS and others. Meet up with Mike if you’re in Raleigh to split a gueuze. He might just buy it.
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