Beer, it’s a funny old thing, just when you think you know your stuff, up turns something completely different to blow your mind and set you off on another mad journey of discovery..
Thinking back about 18 months when I really seriously got into beer and not just accepting any old slops cheaply named with an “ooh err Mrs” style pump clip. Designed to attract me because it’s name had some extremely loose connection with ladies bits, or perhaps sticking one up a goblin etc etc (see Pumpclip Parade for details), anyway way back then I remember trying my first real sour beer, it was Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze..
If you are not familiar with Lambics, Geuze, (Geueze) whatever, that name will mean nothing, but let me tell you I thought it was foul, absolutely undrinkable and most of it ended up in the sink.
My thoughts were at the time, “if I had some fish and chips, this would make a perfect condiment, that is if it didn’t melt the food before my very eyes..). So when I was invited to a bottle night at The Wharf in Macclesfield last week, theme “sours” and the first picture I saw contained a bottle of Hanssens, you can imagine I approached the evening with a bit of trepidation.
However it’s worth saying that since then my horizons have been broadened and I’ve dabbled in the odd Lambic etc with higher degrees of success after several visits to Belgium, exploring the delights of La Mort Subite and Meoder Lambic to name but a few.
La Mort Subite is where I started actually liking some of these beers, they had a nice range, both plain and fruit flavoured which were not quite as sharp as examples I’d tried before and even the wife liked them which makes life easier all round.
Fast forward a year or so and I’m at Moeder Lambic and trying Tilquin for the first time, far more serious and actually enjoying it, so that’s what I took along as I knew I’d at least like one and that’s where we kicked of the night.
No surprises here as it’s now a firm favourite, light, fresh and refreshing I’m actually getting to like this stuff (what’s wrong with me??).
Then, my arch nemesis, Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Geuze…first sips, I still have a tongue, a little more and wait, a gaping hole has not appeared where my oesophagus should be, this stuff is not so bad after all. It’s stronger flavoured yes, but not harsh it’s rather smooth, I’m shocked!
We then went coincidentally to Mort Subite, strange because I wasn’t picking the order but it sort of followed an almost freaky pattern and this is where it all went a bit weird for me. After the two previous drinks this, an old favourite, my entry-level beer was pretty damned awful and the sentiment echoed around the table. It’s sooo sweet which is probably why it’s far more palatable to the novice, but far more than I ever remembered tasting rather like Appletise, another complete shocker.
Then things started to get serious, out came the big guns Cantillon..
Now I’d had some Cantillon beers over the last year or so, but on previous occasions not got on too well, so again I was wary here. But fear not, at last I’m starting to see what this is all about and the Fou’ Foune was just divine, sour but not lip pursing, it’s a full flavoured apricot fest in a glass and in my top three beers of the night.
From then the list went like this so as not to labour the point:
- 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueze – really fresh and refreshing
- Cantillon Grand Cru Broucsella – a pure three-year old lambic which again was delicious. Not a firm favourite from everyone because of the lack of carbonation but definitely one to seek out and savour.
- Boon Marriage Parfait – One of my personal favourites this and one that I’d recommend to anyone wanting to try Geuze for the first time, I always try to keep a few of these knocking around and they are reasonably priced too. Better than champagne any day of the week.
- Gueuze 100% Organic Lambic – Not a stand out favourite in this company but still really very good.
- Rosé de Gambrinus – Probably the sour/bitterest of the lot and surprisingly one of my favourites, think juicy but under ripe raspberries, there’s so much fruit in here it’s incredible.
- Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek – Wow, the best well and truly until last, intense cherry fruit flavours, an absolute class act, I want more..
As you can see we had a really good range of top quality beers sitting empty on the table as we’d finished, a few that are probably having lambic lovers salivating right now and I am truly shocked at what I discovered about my own tastes and how they have developed over the last couple of years. If you’d asked me in 2010 to try some of these, I may have done so (be rude not too) but I doubt very much if I’d have really enjoyed it and no way could I see myself writing this now.
The simple fact is that I currently find myself craving them more and more, don’t get me wrong I still love a good hoppy session beer, a triple IPA and Impy Stout, but while I’m downing one I’m secretly scouring your beer fridges hoping to find something sour…
Note: Massive thanks to Chris at The Wharf in Macclesfield for the cheese and being a fabulous host