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Lambic

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Lambic is one of the most unique Belgian beer styles. Sour and flat, with no hop flavor or aroma, it tastes like a throwback to an earlier era of brewing. Old and young Lambic is traditionally blended and carbonated by méthode champenoise to create Gueuze.

Traditional lambic breweries use open fermentation, allowing the wild yeasts and airborne bacteria of the Senne valley where these beers are brewed to inoculate the beer. The characteristic sour, barnyard taste of Brettanomyces dominates, along with contributions from dozens of other microorganisms.

Contents

[edit] History of Lambic

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Lambic developed from traditional, open-fermented beers that have been brewed in Belgium for nearly 2,000 years. Its direct precursor is the so-called Yellow Beer of the Middle Ages.

[edit] Types of Lambic

[edit] Unblended Lambic

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[edit] Gueuze

Gueuze or Geuze is produced by blending different vintages of Lambic together, traditionally one-, two-, and three-year-old versions. It is then bottle conditioned and carbonated by the sugar remaining in the young lambic. Gueuze is then traditionally finished using the Méthode champenoise. The result is a sweet, sour, effervescent beer very different from unblended lambic.

[edit] Fruit Lambic

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[edit] Mars

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[edit] Faro

Faro is made by blending lambic, usually low-gravity Unblended Lambic or a blend of Lambic and Mars, with burnt sugar or dark candi sugar to form a sweet and sour beverage. Traditionally, the sugar was added directly to the mug and served with a mortar with which the drinker could crush it into the beer; therefore the sweet beer remained uncarbonated, as with an Unblended Lambic. Faro is not generally available outside of some Belgian draft versions.

[edit] Brewing Lambic

The main concern with the homebrewer of lambic is the introduction of brettanomyces into the brew house. Brett is persistent, hard to kill, and unwanted in most beer styles. Homebrewers are at an advantage over commercial brewers in that homebrewers can (and probably should) maintain a separate fermentation and racking system, and maybe even a separate room, for sour beers to avoid cross-contamination.

[edit] Grist

Lambic is traditionally brewed with approximately 70% malted barley and 30% unmalted wheat.

[edit] Hops

Lambic brewers used aged hops, often three years old. The hops are used primarily for their preservative qualities; hop flavor and aroma are not required. See the article on aged hops for more information on simulating this effect in the home brewery.

[edit] Yeast

Traditional versions use open fermentation; however, homebrewers can obtain lambic yeast cultures, or cultures of individual strains, from several sources. Harvesting yeast from bottles is not always successful, since some Belgian breweries use different yeasts for bottle conditioning than primary fermentation in an effort to keep their yeasts a secret.

[edit] Competition Styles

Both the BJCP and the GABF style guidelines recognize at unblended and fruit lambic and gueuze as competition styles.

[edit] BJCP Style Guidelines

[edit] Straight (Unblended) Lambic

17D. Straight (Unblended) Lambic Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: up to 10 SRM: 3-7 OG: 1.040-1.054 FG: 1.000-1.010 ABV: 5-6.5
Aroma: A decidedly sour/acidic aroma is often dominant in young examples, but may be more subdued with age as it blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. A mild oak and/or citrus aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. Older versions are commonly fruity with aromas of apples or even honey. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Pale yellow to deep golden in color. Age tends to darken the beer. Clarity is hazy to good. Younger versions are often cloudy, while older ones are generally clear. Head retention is generally poor.
Flavor: A decidedly sour/acidic aroma is often dominant in young examples, but may be more subdued with age as it blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. A mild oak and/or citrus aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. Older versions are commonly fruity with aromas of apples or even honey. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium-light body. In spite of the low finishing gravity, the many mouth-filling flavors prevent the beer from tasting like water. As a rule of thumb lambic dries with age, which makes dryness a reasonable indicator of age. Has a medium to high tart, puckering quality without being sharply astringent. Virtually to completely uncarbonated.
Overall Impression: A decidedly sour/acidic aroma is often dominant in young examples, but may be more subdued with age as it blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. A mild oak and/or citrus aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. Older versions are commonly fruity with aromas of apples or even honey. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
History: Spontaneously fermented sour ales from the area in and around Brussels (the Senne Valley) stem from a farmhouse brewing tradition several centuries old. Their numbers are constantly dwindling.
Comments: Straight lambics are single-batch, unblended beers. Since they are unblended, the straight lambic is often a true product of the "house character" of a brewery and will be more variable than a gueuze. They are generally served young (6 months) and on tap as cheap, easy-drinking beers without any filling carbonation. Younger versions tend to be one-dimensionally sour since a complex Brett character often takes upwards of a year to develop. An enteric character is often indicative of a lambic that is too young. A noticeable vinegary or cidery character is considered a fault by Belgian brewers. Since the wild yeast and bacteria will ferment ALL sugars, they are bottled only when they have completely fermented. Lambic is served uncarbonated, while gueuze is served effervescent.
Ingredients: Unmalted wheat (30-40%), pilsner malt and aged (surannes) hops (3 years) are used. The aged hops are used more for preservative effects than bitterness, and makes actual bitterness levels difficult to estimate. Traditionally these beers are spontaneously fermented with naturally-occurring yeast and bacteria in predominately oaken barrels. Home-brewed and craft-brewed versions are more typically made with pure cultures of yeast commonly including Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus in an attempt to recreate the effects of the dominant microbiota of Brussels and the surrounding countryside of the Senne River valley. Cultures taken from bottles are sometimes used but there is no simple way of knowing what organisms are still viable.
Commercial Examples: The only bottled version readily available is Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella of whatever single batch vintage the brewer deems worthy to bottle. De Cam sometimes bottles their very old (5 years) lambic. In and around Brussels there are specialty cafes that often have draught lambics from traditional brewers/blenders such as Boon, De Cam, Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Lindemans and Girardin.


[edit] Gueuze

17E. Gueuze Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: less than 10 SRM: 3-7 OG: 1.040-1.060 FG: 1.000-1.006 ABV: 5-8
Aroma: A moderately sour/acidic aroma blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. While some may be more dominantly sour/acidic, balance is the key and denotes a better gueuze. Commonly fruity with aromas of citrus fruits (often grapefruit), apples or other light fruits, rhubarb, or honey. A very mild oak aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Appearance: Golden in color. Clarity is excellent (unless the bottle was shaken). A thick rocky, mousse-like, white head seems to last forever. Always effervescent.
Flavor: A moderately sour/acidic aroma blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. While some may be more dominantly sour/acidic, balance is the key and denotes a better gueuze. Commonly fruity with aromas of citrus fruits (often grapefruit), apples or other light fruits, rhubarb, or honey. A very mild oak aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium-light body. In spite of the low finishing gravity, the many mouth-filling flavors prevent the beer from tasting like water. Has a low to high tart, puckering quality without being sharply astringent. Some versions have a low warming character. Highly carbonated.
Overall Impression: A moderately sour/acidic aroma blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket. While some may be more dominantly sour/acidic, balance is the key and denotes a better gueuze. Commonly fruity with aromas of citrus fruits (often grapefruit), apples or other light fruits, rhubarb, or honey. A very mild oak aroma is considered favorable. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
History: Spontaneously fermented sour ales from the area in and around Brussels (the Senne Valley) stem from a farmhouse brewing tradition several centuries old. Their numbers are constantly dwindling and some are untraditionally sweetening their products (post-fermentation) to make them more palatable to a wider audience.
Comments: Gueuze is traditionally produced by mixing one, two, and three-year old lambic. "Young" lambic contains fermentable sugars while old lambic has the characteristic "wild" taste of the Senne River valley. A good gueuze is not the most pungent, but possesses a full and tantalizing bouquet, a sharp aroma, and a soft, velvety flavor. Lambic is served uncarbonated, while gueuze is served effervescent.
Ingredients: Unmalted wheat (30-40%), pilsner malt and aged (surannes) hops (3 years) are used. The aged hops are used more for preservative effects than bitterness, and makes actual bitterness levels difficult to estimate. Traditionally these beers are spontaneously fermented with naturally-occurring yeast and bacteria in predominately oaken barrels. Home-brewed and craft-brewed versions are more typically made with pure cultures of yeast commonly including Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus in an attempt to recreate the effects of the dominant microbiota of Brussels and the surrounding countryside of the Senne River valley. Cultures taken from bottles are sometimes used but there is no simple way of knowing what organisms are still viable.
Commercial Examples: Boon Oude Gueuze, Boon Oude Gueuze Mariage Parfait, De Cam Gueuze, De Cam/Drie Fonteinen Millennium Gueuze, Drie Fonteinen Oud Gueuze, Cantillon Gueuze, Hanssens Gueuze, Lindemans Gueuze Cuv̩e Ren̩, Girardin Gueuze (Black Label), Mort Subite (Unfiltered) Gueuze, Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze


[edit] Fruit Lambic

17F. Fruit Lambic Vital Statistics
BJCP Style Guideline Definition (2004)
IBUs: less than 10 SRM: 3-7 (varies w/ fruit) OG: 1.040-1.060 FG: 1.000-1.010 ABV: 5-7
Aroma: The fruit which has been added to the beer should be the dominant aroma. A low to moderately sour/acidic character blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket (and thus should be recognizable as a lambic). The fruit aroma commonly blends with the other aromas. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Appearance: The variety of fruit generally determines the color though lighter-colored fruit may have little effect on the color. The color intensity may fade with age. Clarity is often good, although some fruit will not drop bright. A thick rocky, mousse-like head, sometimes a shade of fruit, is generally long-lasting. Always effervescent.
Flavor: The fruit which has been added to the beer should be the dominant aroma. A low to moderately sour/acidic character blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket (and thus should be recognizable as a lambic). The fruit aroma commonly blends with the other aromas. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium-light body. In spite of the low finishing gravity, the many mouth-filling flavors prevent the beer from tasting like water. Has a low to high tart, puckering quality without being sharply astringent. Some versions have a low warming character. Highly carbonated.
Overall Impression: The fruit which has been added to the beer should be the dominant aroma. A low to moderately sour/acidic character blends with aromas described as barnyard, earthy, goaty, hay, horsey, and horse blanket (and thus should be recognizable as a lambic). The fruit aroma commonly blends with the other aromas. An enteric, smoky, cigar-like, or cheesy aroma is unfavorable. No hop aroma. No diacetyl.
History: Spontaneously fermented sour ales from the area in and around Brussels (the Senne Valley) stem from a farmhouse brewing tradition several centuries old. Their numbers are constantly dwindling and some are untraditionally sweetening their products (post-fermentation) with sugar or sweet fruit to make them more palatable to a wider audience. Fruit was traditionally added to lambic or gueuze, either by the blender or publican, to increase the variety of beers available in local cafes.
Comments: Fruit-based lambics are often produced like gueuze by mixing one, two, and three-year old lambic. "Young" lambic contains fermentable sugars while old lambic has the characteristic "wild" taste of the Senne River valley. Fruit is commonly added halfway through aging and the yeast and bacteria will ferment all sugars from the fruit. Fruit may also be added to unblended lambic. The most traditional styles of fruit lambics include kriek (cherries), framboise (raspberries) and druivenlambik (muscat grapes). ENTRANT MUST SPECIFY THE TYPE OF FRUIT(S) USED IN MAKING THE LAMBIC. Any overly sweet lambics (e.g., Lindemans or Belle Vue clones) would do better entered in the 16E Belgian Specialty category since this category does not describe beers with that character.
Ingredients: Unmalted wheat (30-40%), pilsner malt and aged (surannes) hops (3 years) are used. The aged hops are used more for preservative effects than bitterness, and makes actual bitterness levels difficult to estimate. Fruits traditionally used include tart cherries (with pits), raspberries or Muscat grapes. More recent examples include peaches, apricots or merlot grapes. Tart or acidic fruit is traditionally used as its purpose is not to sweeten the beer but to add a new dimension. Traditionally these beers are spontaneously fermented with naturally-occurring yeast and bacteria in predominately oaken barrels. Home-brewed and craft-brewed versions are more typically made with pure cultures of yeast commonly including Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus in an attempt to recreate the effects of the dominant microbiota of Brussels and the surrounding countryside of the Senne River valley. Cultures taken from bottles are sometimes used but there is no simple way of knowing what organisms are still viable.
Commercial Examples: Boon Framboise Marriage Parfait, Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait, Boon Oude Kriek, Cantillon Fou' Foune (apricot), Cantillon Kriek, Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek, Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, Cantillon St. Lamvinus (merlot grape), Cantillon Vigneronne (Muscat grape), De Cam Oude Kriek, Drie Fonteinen Kriek, Girardin Kriek, Hanssens Oude Kriek, Oud Beersel Kriek

[edit] GABF Style Listings

[edit] Belgian Style Lambic

60A. Belgian Style Lambic
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Unblended, naturally and spontaneously fermented lambic is intensely estery, sour, and sometimes, but not necessarily, acetic flavored. Low in carbon dioxide, these hazy beers are brewed with unmalted wheat and malted barley. Sweet malt characters are not perceived. They are very low in hop bitterness. Cloudiness is acceptable. These beers are quite dry and light bodied. Characteristic horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic character evolved from Brettanomyces yeast is often present at moderate levels. Versions of this beer made outside of the Brussels area of Belgium cannot be true lambics. These versions are said to be "lambic-style" and may be made to resemble many of the beers of true origin. Vanillin and other woody flavors should not be evident. Historically, traditional lambic is dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Modern versions may have a degree of sweetness, contributed by sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.044-1.056 (11-14 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.000-1.010 (0-2.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 4-5% (5-6.3%)
Bitterness (IBU): 11-23
Color SRM (EBC): 6-13 (1-26 EBC)


[edit] Belgian Style Gueuze Lambic

60B. Belgian Style Gueuze Lambic
GABF Style Listing (2007)
Old lambic is blended with newly fermenting young lambic to create this special style of lambic. Gueuze is always refermented in the bottle. These unflavored blended and secondary fermented lambic beers may be very dry or mildly sweet and are characterized by intense fruity-estery, sour, and acidic aromas and flavors. These pale beers are brewed with unmalted wheat, malted barley, and stale, aged hops. Sweet malt characters are not perceived. They are very low in hop bitterness. Diacetyl should be absent. Characteristic horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic character evolved from Brettanomyces yeast is often present at moderate levels. Cloudiness is acceptable. These beers are quite dry and light bodied. Vanillin and other woody flavors should not be evident. Versions of this beer made outside of the Brussels area of Belgium cannot be true lambics. These versions are said to be "lambic-style" and may be made to resemble many of the beers of true origin. Historically, traditional gueuze lambics are dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Modern versions may have a degree of sweetness, contributed by sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.044-1.056 (11-14 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.000-1.010 (0-2.5 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 4.0-5.0% (5.0-6.3%)
Bitterness (IBU): 11-23
Color SRM (EBC):


[edit] Belgian Style Fruit Lambic

60C. Belgian Style Fruit Lambic
GABF Style Listing (2007)
These beers, also known by the names framboise, kriek, peche, cassis, etc., are characterized by fruit flavors and aromas. The color reflects the choice of fruit. Sourness is an important part of the flavor profile, though sweetness may compromise the intensity. These flavored lambic beers may be very dry or mildly sweet and range from a dry to a full-bodied mouthfeel. Characteristic horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic character evolved from Brettanomyces yeast is often present at moderate levels. Vanillin and other woody flavors should not be evident. Versions of this beer made outside of the Brussels area of Belgium cannot be true lambics. These versions are said to be "lambic-style" and may be made to resemble many of the beers of true origin. Historically, traditional lambics are dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar, fruit or artificial sweeteners. Modern versions often have a degree of sweetness, contributed by fruit sugars, other sugars or artificial sweeteners. The brewer should list the fruit used in the beer. Beer entries not accompanied by this information may be at a disadvantage during judging.
Original Gravity (ºPlato): 1.040-1.072 (10-17.5 ºPlato)
Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (ºPlato): 1.008-1.016 (2-4 ºPlato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume): 4.0-5.5% (5.0-7.0%)
Bitterness (IBU): 15-21
Color SRM (EBC): Color takes on hue of fruit