04 March 2009

A nice glass of merlot

I'm heading back to Cantillon this weekend for their public brew day. On my last visit I picked up a couple of beers to take home, one of which was chosen on pure novelty: the grape lambic Saint Lamvinus. Even though the label recommended not opening until the year after purchase, I needed to know whether I had to buy lots more next month, or save my bag space for something else.

Adding fruit to lambic is not a new or exciting thing. Cherries and raspberries are probably the most common, though blueberries and peaches aren't unknown. But this was the first time I'd seen someone decide that grapes -- merlot, to be precise -- could go in instead. An alcoholic beverage made from grapes? That's the kind of radical thinking that always interests me.

It pours a light bright hazy red, sparkly with a girly pink head on the top. I had been hoping for big juicy grapey fruitiness, but this is Cantillon, so what I got was dryyyy. It's sharp and acidic very much in the same way the standard Cantillon Gueuze is. As a result the fruit comes through more as tart redcurrants or raspberries than juicy grapes. However, it's still relatively mild. I've tasted many a beer far more vinous than this. I suppose that shows that grapes are just another fruit -- as suited to making booze as any other.

I don't think I can justify paying the extra €2 or so that Saint Lamvinus costs over Cantillon Gueuze. Perhaps after the recommended year's maturation it'd round out nicely, but I still dunno that I'd bother. I can't see it getting any sweeter, that's for sure.

The other one I'm auditioning is Grand Cru Bruocsella their 3-year-aged (that's right: barrels are in) lambic . They describe this as "a cereal-based wine", even though it's a mere 5% ABV. My usual question for non-fruity Cantillons: how is it different from my beloved standard Cantillon Gueuze? Well, it's sourer. Remember the shock of your first ever sip of Cantillon? It's like that again. The nose is nearly pungent, with even more of a damp moldy funk than usual, and the taste just pierces the sides of your jaw quite disconcertingly. The texture is almost totally flat. I've no doubt that this is an acquired taste, but I think the extra sourness just tips it over into imbalance. I'll stick to the regular, thanks.

And finally just a quick reminder that The Session: Love Lager kicks off on Friday. Go out and have some yellow fizz in my honour. I'll be in Brussels drinking something better.


  1. Whats your favorite fruit in a lambic? How is the peach?

  2. Never had peach. Lindemans do a quite famous one.

    I think the Cantillon/Mikkeller blueberry lambic is the best one I've ever tasted. And it was free!

    Beyond that, good old cherries.

  3. Anonymous1:39 pm

    Nice post, nice to see someone reviewing two of the under the radar numbers from Cantillon.

    What's freakier, is that I must have been there the same day as you!

  4. Did the audio studies bloke follow you round with a boom microphone as well?

  5. That Bruocsella is one cruel beer. It redefines alcohol abuse.

  6. Lambic/gueeze is a style that I've struggled to get into and enjoy.

    Can you (or anyone) recommend the best of the bunch to try? I've had a few, though I can't remember which right now.

  7. I'm not a fan of the whole easing-yourself-in to a beer style. Which would mean go for the big guns first: Cantillon, Oude Geuze Boon, that sort of thing.

    If you do want a gentler introduction, there's Mort Subite Gueuze (the one that hooked me) or Bellevue Gueuze.

    If you've been through this lot twice, and still don't get it, quit. But forcing 75cl of Cantillon into you in one slow sitting in small glasses is very very worthwhile.

  8. Nice one, cheers. I'm sure I've had the Bellevue and Mort Subite and definitely at least one of the Cantillons. There's an Boon Oude in the cupboard too but I haven't opened it yet.

    I'll keep at them - I'm not giving up yet!! I think I just haven't had enough of them and given myself the chance to understand the style.

  9. Drie Fonteinen is another quality big-hitter.

    Dammit I'm going to Brussels tomorrow: I really should have these things at my fingertips...

  10. Hanssen geuze would be my recommend for a slightly more human unsweetened one. A bit less austere and a bit cheaper. Girardin is my favorite if you can find it.

  11. Yeah, Girardin is lovely. I've only had it on cask, though. Might have some more tomorrow. On cask.
    /inspects nails nonchalantly