You have to hand it to De Troch's Chapeau range of beers: they keep on surprising. I mean, they look like knock-off candy-lambics: doing a pineapple version suggests they aren't even trying to be taken seriously. And then this came my way: Chapeau Winter Gueuze. Sour lambic and Christmas spices are not a natural pairing, so what have they done here? With trepidation I popped the cap and pulled the cork.
It's 5.5% ABV and a murky red-brown sort of thing, light on fizz despite the thick champagne glass and double stopper. Mostly it smells like a kriek, with perhaps a little extra warmth: cherry strudel, maybe. The kriek theme continues on tasting, coming across like one of the sweet baby-steps starter krieks like Mort Subite or Bellevue. That strudel thing comes in again shortly afterwards and suggests raisins and stewed apples alongside the cherries. To finish there's a barely-there woody sourness of the sort you find in mild Flemish brown ale.
To be honest it's hitting neither my Christmas beer nor lambic receptors. It's really just a thick sugary concoction and the sort of thing I quite enjoy but wouldn't be running to recommend to anyone else.
So my scepticism levels were high when I turned to Cuvée Chapeau, their purported oude gueuze. It seems a very serious and difficult style for a brand which tolerates tropical fruit and cartoon Santas on its labels, but they have managed to pull this one off, I think.
The aroma from the dark gold beer isn't overpowering but it does more than hint at the sourness, complicating it with elements of flint and white grape as well. The first sip is properly puckering but the recoil doesn't last and an inviting warmth follows it, suggesting more than the 5.5% ABV. After that it finishes quite quickly with just a bit of not-unpleasant wine cork mustiness. So while it's neither as complex nor as quaffable as the top-tier oude gueuzes it certainly doesn't taste like fake lambic to me.
Two more reasons to regard Chapeau as the most surprising lambic producer. Here's wishing all my readers more lovely surprises this Christmas. Pass the cheese.