Tour De Gueuze 2019
Geuze is a blend of young and old Lambic beers which can only be made in an area of ca.15km around Brussels. It is traditionally bottled in champagne bottles and then allowed second fermentation. The taste is certainly an acquired one, but once you can twist your tongue around the acidity it will quickly become one of your favourite beers. Its sourness also makes sure that it is one of your favourite thirst quenchers on hot summer afternoons.
To understand Geuze one must first know what Lambic beer is. Lambic can only be made in the areas of the Zenne Valley and Pajottenland. This is because traditionally they use spontaneous fermentation by wild (local) yeasts. And two of these wild yeasts in particular: “Brettanomyces Bruxellensis” and “Brettanomyces Lambicus” make for the unique and sour taste of the Lambic beer. The entire fermentation proces can take up to 3 years (!) in oakwood barrels. It’s quite a spectacular sight to see all those barrels with thick foam oozing out of the barrelhole, it reminded me of the eggroom of the science-fiction movie Alien, but that’s probably just me.
So young Lambic is left in the barrels for up to one year and old Lambic for up to three, then they make a blend of these and bottle them in champagne bottles to let them sit for a second fermentation. It is one of the reasons why Geuze is called ‘the champagne of all beers’. This tradition has its origin in the 18th century when champagne became very popular in Brussels and one Lambic brewer collected all the disused bottles, because these were the only bottles that could take the enormous pressure buildup that occurs during second fermentation.
There’s quite some debate about the origin of the names. Lambic, most probably comes from ‘Lembeek’ a little village in the Zenne Valley, although some persist that it comes from the word ‘alambic’. Geuze, of course, comes from ‘geus’ and plural ‘geuzen’, the Rebel Forces in the 80years Revolution against the Spanish Empire in the 16th and 17th century. Alas, the Empire struck back and we were left with Belgium… (Star Wars pun intended).
Lambic is made of malted barley, unmalted wheat, spent hops (‘overjaarse hop’, I don’t know if the English translation is correct) and water. The old hops are only used in the Lambic as a preservative, so there is no typical hoppy flavour. Also Lambic is not as effervescent as other beers, because of the long fermentation time (after one year lots of the bubbles go bye-bye). Describing the typical flavour of Geuze is actually at the same time straightforward ànd impossible! Not only does it depend on the type of blend and the bottling age (you can keep a bottle for years), but also the fact that the flavour is so unique that it is hard to describe. It’s sour, yes! Everybody will agree on that one, but there’s also something leathery, fermented, … Any word you will use, doesn’t sound good, but the flavour itself is spectacular! There’s nothing more amazing than going on a bike tour through Flanders on a hot 36°C summer day and then stop in a farm turned into a café and open up the ice cold champagne Geuze bottles.
Every two years the Tour De Gueuze (Toer De Geuze) takes place, an event where all the traditional Lambic/Geuze breweries open their gates and allow you to freely visit them. Degustation included of course! You’ll have to wait until 2021 for the next edition, but we can already strongly recommend to take part of this tour. We were short on time and had the kids with us so we only visited two breweries (Timmermans – oldest still existent Lambic brewery- and De Troch brewery). It’s practically impossible to visit all of the breweries in one day so the Tour lasts for two! Better plan ahead when you’re going. Also every edition a special brewer’s blend Oude Geuze is available then: a special blend of Lambics coming from all of the traditional Lambic brewers. We will let you know when we open the 2019 edition.
May the Geuze be with you!