Lambic is a very distinctive type of beer brewed only in the Pajottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) and in Brussels itself at the Cantillon Brewery and museum. Lambic is now mainly consumed after refermentation, resulting in derived beers such as Geuze or Kriek.
Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic beer is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste.
The origins of lambic beer lie in the working classes of the region some 500 years ago who appreciated a weak, quenching drink that could be produced cheaply and easily on the farm. Since then, the style has diversified to a wide range of styles, strengths, and social classes.
Types of lambic and derived beers
Unblended lambic is a cloudy, uncarbonated, bracingly sour beverage available on tap in only a few locations. Generally three years old. Bottled offerings from Cantillon and De Cam can be found outside of Belgium.
A mixture of young (one-year-old) and old (two- and three-year-old) lambics that have been bottled. It undergoes secondary fermentation, producing carbon dioxide, because the young lambics are not yet fully fermented. It keeps in the bottle; a good gueuze will be given a year to referment in the bottle, but can be kept for 10–20 years. An obscure German top-fermenting style, Gose, is not to be confused with gueuze.
Mars traditionally referred to a weaker beer made from the second runnings of a lambic brewing. It is no longer commercially produced. In the 1990s, the Boon brewery made a modern Mars beer called Lembeek's 2% (the 2% referring to the alcohol content), but its production has since been discontinued.
Historically, a low-alcohol, sweetened beer made from a blend of lambic and a much lighter, freshly brewed beer (called meertsbier, not necessarily a lambic) to which brown sugar (or sometimes caramel or molasses) was added. Sometimes herbs were added as well. The use of the lighter beer (or even water) and of substandard lambic in the blend made this a cheap, light, sweet beer for everyday use. The 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire commented on Faro's (to him) disagreeable aftertaste, "It's beer that you drink twice", believing that the Faro in Brussels was brewed from the waters of a river (the Senne or Zenne) that was also used as a sewer.
The sugar was originally added shortly before serving, and therefore did not add carbonation or alcohol to the beverage (because the sugar did not have the time to ferment). Modern faro beer is still characterized by the use of brown sugar and lambic, but is not necessarily a light beer. The use of meertsbier has disappeared, and modern faro is not viewed as cheap or light. Modern faro is bottled, sweetened and pasteurized to prevent refermentation in the bottle. Examples are produced by Cantillon, Boon, Lindemans or Mort Subite.
Lambic refermented in the presence of sour cherries (morello cherry) and with secondary fermentation in the bottle results in kriek. Traditional versions of kriek are dry and sour, just as traditional geuze.
Lambic with the addition of raspberry (framboise), peach (pêche), blackcurrant (cassis), grape (druif), or strawberry (aardbei), as either whole fruit or syrup. Other, rarer fruit lambic flavorings include apple (pomme), banana (banane), pineapple (ananas), apricot (abricotier), plum (prunier), cloudberry (plaquebière), lemon (citron), and blueberry (bleuet). Fruit lambics are usually bottled with secondary fermentation. Although fruit lambics are among the most famous Belgian fruit beers, the use of names such as kriek, framboise or frambozen, cassis, etc. does not necessarily imply that the beer is made from lambic. The fruit beers produced by the Liefmans brewery, for example, actually use a brown ale (Oud Bruin), rather than a lambic as a base. Many of the non-traditional fruit beers derived from lambic that were commercialized in the last decades are considered to be low quality products by many beer enthusiasts. These products are typically artificially sweetened and based on syrups instead of fresh fruit, resulting in a taste experience that is quite remote from the traditional products.
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How to Drink Lambic Beer, www.wikihow.com
The birth of lambic, www.lindemans.be
Lambic – Fruit, beeradvocate.com