Lambic

Fundamentals #54 — Lambiek Fabriek Oude Geuze Brett-Elle

Lazy, late summer Sundays are perfect for enjoying a sour beer or two. There’s something about leaves turning a dark, heavy shade of green and the scent of burning charcoal drifting from garden to garden that tells you it’s time to slow down for a while. Now is the perfect time to take stock of your year so far, before the colder months begin to set in.

Which sour to reach for, though? Do you choose a tart, bittersweet Flanders red or oud bruin? Perhaps you desire a few cans of a modern gose, laden with fruit and refreshing salinity. You might even choose a cider or natural wine that errs on the funkier side of things. For me though, you can’t beat the elegance of an oude geuze.

There is something magical about geuze (or gueuze if written in French instead of Flemish). The way in which it’s made contributes to the power of its spell. It is fermented spontaneously – meaning that fermentation is achieved by inoculating wort with airborne yeast and bacteria – no yeast is pitched (the creation of a sourdough yeast culture would be a good comparison).

The beer is then fermented and matured in oak casks, typically former wine barrels, for up to (and sometimes more than) three years. This unblended beer is called lambic. It becomes geuze when old lambic is blended in bottle with young lambic. The residual sugars in the younger beer will trigger refermentation in bottle creating a lively, champagne-like beer. If the old lambic used is at least three years old, then it is allowed to be called oude geuze. To be called geuze, the beer must also be produced in the Pajottenland, a small area to the southwest of Brussels, along the Zenne Valley. It’s home to many legendary producers, including Boon and 3 Fonteinen. There are newcomers too, however, such as Lambiek Fabriek, which began its own journey into spontaneous fermentation in 2016.

Due to Lambiek Fabriek being far younger than most producers of lambic and geuze (and the relative popularity of rare geuze among hardened beer collectors), coming across its Brett-Elle blend has so far been relatively challenging. You can be thankful, then, that Hop Burns & Black have managed to secure some for you.

Where Brett-Elle may lack the simple elegance of an oude geuze from say, Boon or Tilquin, it makes up for this through sheer punch of flavour. It provides an immediate hit of tart, freshly squeezed lemon juice on the palate. There’s a touch of farmyard to this beer too, as if you’ve been rumbled scrumping lemons from a local farmer, and you’re hiding in a barn, behind a drove of goats. Then, quite suddenly, another snap of pithy lemon and a dry, saline finish snaps you back into the garden. Be careful not to burn those hamburgers as you enjoy this beer.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Be first to read Matt’s columns when you sign up to our All Killer No Filler beer subscription box - along with Claire Bullen’s recipe and pairings, plus in-depth tasting notes, they’re included in every box…

The Beer Lover’s Table: Rose Panna Cotta and Boon Framboise

When it comes to beer pairings, desserts don’t always get a whole lot of love (apart from a token nod to chocolate stout paired with, you guessed it, anything chocolate).

Instead, we gravitate towards beer’s savoury pairing potential, from burgers and pies to cheese and roast meats. That’s not wrong, of course, but think of it this way: swapping out your Moscato allows you yet another opportunity to enjoy beer at the dinner table.

I’ve always found rose to be a captivating flavour, and, clichés acknowledged, it seems a particularly appropriate choice for February. So, I turned to this panna cotta recipe. (“Panna cotta” is Italian for “cooked cream” – if you haven’t tried it before, think of crème brûlée, minus the brûlée). The rose here, balanced by vanilla and cream, is delicate, not at all soapy. And cardamom adds an additional dimension, evoking Middle Eastern desserts.

Creamy and delicately flavoured puddings can be tricky to pair with beer; avoiding anything overly bitter or sour here is key. In this case, Boon Framboise was just the thing. Frank Boon was one of the first to revive raspberry lambics back in the 1970s, and I’m glad he did. This beer is so redolent of freshly picked berries that sniffing it is like stumbling into a bramble patch (the label promises more than 300 grams of berries per litre). It’s just tart enough to cut through the creaminess of the dessert without unbalancing it – and raspberry and rose are a dream together.

Panna cotta sounds fancy, and therefore difficult to make. Luckily, it really isn’t. The active prep time for this dessert is about 15 minutes; the hardest part might be waiting the five-odd hours for it to chill and set. In other words, this should be your new dinner party or special occasion go-to.

[Just don’t knock over an entire bottle of red food colouring in your white kitchen while you’re making your panna cotta. The dye will splatter all over your appliances and floor and will somehow get inside of your washing machine (?!) and your flatmates will think you’ve committed a murder. The recipe is much harder if you do that.]

 

Rose Water Panna Cotta
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater

600ml double cream
100ml whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
3 sheets gelatin 10 tbs icing sugar
3-4 drops red food colouring (optional)
4 tsp rose water (more to taste)
300ml Greek yoghurt
Dried rose petals and nibbed pistachios for garnish (optional)

Simmer the first four ingredients in a small saucepan for 5-6 minutes, or until the mixture begins to steam and get pleasingly frothy around the edges. In the meantime, soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat and add in the sugar, stirring until fully incorporated. Add the food colouring, if you want your panna cotta to look as rosy as it tastes. Next, add the rose water and gelatin leaves (they should be slippery and soft at this point) and stir to dissolve. Lastly, gently stir in the Greek yoghurt until the mixture is uniform. Taste at this point to see if the rose water is strong enough for your liking; add a few drops more if you want yours especially floral.

Pour the mixture through a sieve and into a jug. From the jug, pour into six prepared dessert cups or glasses. Cover each tightly with cling film and chill for at least five hours prior to serving. Garnish with the dried rose petals and pistachios for a bit of extra colour.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen.

In Brussels, no one can hear you scream...

(Unless it's for more beer.)

Our mission is to showcase the world’s best beers in our store so we’re always on the lookout to boost our range we have on offer.

One thing we thought we could improve upon in was our Belgian beer section. Tucked away at the back of the shop over just a couple of shelves seemed a little unfair for the country that’s brought us some of the finest beers on the planet, so we thought we’d better do something about it.

The best way to go about this seemed obvious - get inspired by spending 36 hours immersed in beery wonderland. The fact it was our seven-year anniversary had absolutely nothing to do with it, of course. I mean, who spends their anniversary in Brussels? (As it turned out, not even us - both Glenn and I forgot what the actual date was and inadvertently spent our anniversary sanitising flagons in the basement. But we did eventually make it to Belgium the following day.)

In case you fancy doing a similar beer-odyssey, we’ve listed some of our highlights below. A big thanks to the wonderful beer geeks of Twitter, who came to the party in fine style when we threw out the call to crowdsource our trip and ensured we didn’t waste a minute. Of special note: @lambicqueen, @T_Marshall1982, @pisci and @pauldavieskew, who went above and beyond. Cheers guys! We can also highly recommend having a copy of Joe Stange's excellent book Around Brussels in 80 Beers to hand. 

Not only did we have a fantastic time, we now have a bigger, better and brighter Belgian section, so we all win. It’s not finished yet either - we’ll be continuing to add to it as more beers become available to us. Come check it out in store and let us know what you think.

36 hours in Brussels - highlights:

  • La Villette for some excellent traditional Belgian fare and Cantillon lambic on cask.
  • Brasserie Cantillon - it’s everything it’s hyped to be. You really can explore every facet of the brewery in action before sitting down to enjoy the beers themselves. The tour includes two free glasses, then you can purchase an insanely reasonably priced bottle of whatever you fancy and relax by the fire and enjoy it. We went home with enough bottles to fill up two suitcases and more…
  • Nuetnigenough - a fantastic little restaurant with great food and even better beer selection. Our waiter was wonderfully knowledgable and pointed us to the best beer we tasted during the trip, Alvinne’s Wild West sour ale.
  • Moeder Lambic - we only made it to the Fontainen bar, at which we enjoyed - you guessed it - more lambics, but we suspect the original would have been even better.
  • Booze n Blues - the best late night bar in Brussels and the best part of our trip. We’d go back to Brussels just to while away a couple of hours at Eddy’s bar, hijackjing his jukebox and trying to elicit a smile.
  • La Brocante - a must-do when you’re exploring the flea market (keep an eye out for cheap records at the nearby corner stores too). Great beer list and cracking hot chocolate as well.
  • Restobieres - wonderful spot run by the charming Alain whose mission in life is presumably to incorporate beer into every aspect of life, cuisine-wise at least. Make sure you have a Bink Blonde with your meal - it’s his favourite beer and not at all a bad drop.
  • Delirium - don’t go here expecting a quiet drink (unless you head upstairs to the more subdued loft), but with a beer list totalling nearly 3,000 you’d be a fool to miss out.
  • Record shops! Brussels rules for crate digging, and the excellent Caroline Music and B Sides, Veals & Geeks and 72 Records were well deserving of our euros.