"Time shows no respect for that which is done without it" reads the inscription hanging in the Cantillon brewery in Brussels. Making lambic is not something one simply waltzes into: it's an art which requires time and skill more akin to the making of whiskey than normal beer brewing. So one tends not to see new brands of Belgian lambic popping up very often: the established houses in and around Brussels have the market pretty much to themselves.
So, for this month's Session, it was very exciting to find myself opening a bottle from a completely new lambic maker. Tilquin doesn't actually brew the beer from scratch but buys it in from the established breweries and ages, blends and bottles it. The process started over two years ago but the first Tilquin beer wasn't released to consumers until just a few months back.
Gueuze Tilquin A L'Ancienne is the uniquely Wallonese name of the first release, though the more familar Flemish term "Oude Gueuze" is also on the label. The base beers came from Boon, Lindeman, Girardin and Cantillon -- each with their own in-house ecosystems of wild yeasts and bacteria which contribute to the taste of their beer.
Tilquin introduces itself with a sharp aroma, a very typical lambic one which always puts me in mind of brick-lined cellars and nitre stalagmites. The cloudy orange beer is a much smoother drink than the nose suggests, however. Sour yes, but not strikingly so. The ageing process has mellowed it wonderfully and in with the tangy lambic zing there's a sappy fresh oak woodiness as well. Lambics are usually barely hopped at all, but I also detected a touch of pithy orange in this.
The intense fizz, the fruity tang and the full-on sourness make for a beer as invigorating as a faceful of iced water. Yet wood and time have added a smoother, more contemplative dimension to it as well. It's very much a beer to savour slowly.
I look forward to more blends from Maison Tilquin in due course. But no rush.