If you are a beer enthusiast and want to expand your knowledge about all the wonderful brews out there to try, one exciting type that everyone should know about but may not have heard of is Lambic beer!
This fun variety, whether it is made as a craft beer or mass produced by a large brewery, offers a lot of unique features and characteristics. Read on to learn about the history of Lambic beer, its general feel, and some of the most famous Lambic beer makers.
History and Geography of Lambic Beer
Although the exact date of origin for Lambic beer is not specifically known, historians have traced some of the first occurrences of the word and strong derivatives of it back to late 18th and early 19th centuries. One of the special things about Lambic beer that makes it stand out is where it gets brewed. Lambic beer is traditionally brewed in Belgium, specifically in areas of Brussels such as the Cantillon Brewery and southwest of Brussels in the Paiottenland region.
How Lambic Beer is Made
Something that is closely connected to where Lambic beer is produced is how it is actually made. Unlike many types of common beers, Lambic beer is created through incorporating wild bacteria and yeasts. These unique ingredients are only found in the Zenne valley (located in and around Brussels) and are what gives the beer its one of a kind flavor.
When you brew Lambic beer, the grain mixture typically consists of 30-40% unmalted wheat as well as 60-70% barley malt. For the wort portion of the process, the wort gets exposed to air and placed in a cool ship overnight. This is a delicate part of the overall fermentation process that must be carried out carefully.
Typically, Lambic beer should only be brewed at certain times of the year. The sweet spot in the calendar for this specific kind of brewing is usually from around October to May, because during the summer months there are a lot of additional organisms that grow in the Zenne valley that can then get in the way of the desired bacteria and yeasts needed for true Lambic beer. It can still be brewed during the summer, but it is difficult and often the taste is less desirable than the fall and winter month brews.
With increasing problems caused by climate change, Lambic beer brewers are starting to run into more issues with brewing windows and seasons, and some think that the perfect brewing period is beginning to shrink.
Typical Feel and Mood of Lambic Beers
Lambic beer stands out most distinctly from other beers because of its taste. The unique taste, a direct result of the special bacteria and yeast used in fermentation, is often described as cider-like, vinous, and dry. It can sometimes be sour as well. When unblended with other materials, the beverage has a cloudy appearance. It has a ‘thick’ feel in the mouth and is naturally mildly carbonated.
Plain Lambic beer can also be made, but plain Lambic beer is not typically consumed and is said to be very sour. Brewers often ferment fruit like muscat grapes, raspberries, and apricots into their Lambic beer to naturally sweeten it. Some manufacturers employ the method of adding syrup for sweetening, but this can end up producing a far too sickly brew.
Some Famous Lambic Beers
If you are interested in trying Lambic beer and experiencing its unique flavors for yourself, there are many helpful reviews and resources published online and in special food and beverage magazines.
A few wonderful breweries to look out for that offer quality Lambic beers include Boon, Cantillon, Van Honsebrouck, Hanssens, Lindemans, and De Troch.