This guy is a post-script to the Vilnius trip I wrote about last week. It winked at me from a high shelf in Alaus Biblioteka, the 75cl bottle resplendent in the swirling art nouveau stylings of Lindeman's prestige range picked out in an enticing bright green. Nestling in the tendrils is the Mikkeller artwork, for this is also part of the Danish gypsy's long "Spontan-" series of lambics with traditional and not-so-traditional fruits added. But this one doesn't use fruit: Spontanbasil is, I think, the first herb flavoured lambic I've ever encountered.
It ain't cheap: €25 is a good night's drinking for two people in Vilnius, but it was literally the last beer I had before heading to the airport, which any economist will tell you is when the notion of value is at its most elastic. Popping the cork I got a hazy blonde beer out, with a big herby aroma. It's not really sour, more of a tang, which melds masterfully with garden-fresh pizza herbs. While it's not exactly complex it is perfectly balanced, extremely drinkable at 6% ABV and, above all, tremendous fun.
I've been an advocate for odd ingredients in beer for as long as I can remember. These days it seems everyone's at it; that in order to be a craft beer there must be a non-standard ingredient in there. Roughly half of the line-up at Borefts this year had fruits or veg or seaweed or something bunged in. And with more of it about, the success rate seems to me to be decreasing. But Spontanbasil restores my faith: it's a triumph. And at that price it would want to be.