Last Friday my wife was away till late. I could have just sat my ass on the couch and watch tv, but I decided to invite some people over to finally investigate the sour ales I had sitting in the shed for about half a year.
Back in September I bought some Geuze beers from Cantillon and some other breweries. My father in law was interested in those, and me as well. I don’t have much experience with the style so, investigation was necessary. Or, freely translated, drinking with a mission.
More in laws thought it a good idea to dive in like this and brought more beers, so in the end we had some 12 sour beers available. We decided to see how far we could get. The ABV could not be the problem since they’re all about 5% to 7%, and we were splitting bottles.
I had to look it up. Stomach acid has a PH (sour-level, for the non-chemically inclined) of 2. Coca cola has the same level but you don’t taste it due to the vast levels of sugar. PH neutral is 7, beer normally is at about 4.3. The average for Geuze beers, as I’ve just Googled, is about 3.6.
This means it might be slightly tricky to drink a lot of it…
The list of things we tried was the following:
- Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic Bio
This was an interesting one. My first experience with ‘real’ Kriek (cherry infused beer). The supermarket stuff is hideous and this was much better. Properly sour with a nice hint of cherries on the finish. Not overly convincing though.
- Cantillon Geuze 100% Bio
Cantillon’s standard Geuze and a real nice one. Nicely sour, but not overly so. A foam that’s almost eggy but nice and crisp flavors. Really good.
- Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella Lambic Bio (2012)
This one was, in a way, comparable to the second beer, except that it tasted far older and was completely flat. As in, no foam at all. Interesting but with deep flavors. Slightly hard to drink because of it. It really sits in your stomach, so to say. Nice and sour, and highly recommended for tasting.
- Rodenbach Charactere Rouge Limited Edition
On the nose, the reaction was ‘bummer…’
On the palate, this was revised. Heavily flavored with crushed and stewed raspberries, but utterly delicious. Strangely perfumy and sweet and sour. A weird beer, but highly recommended if you’re looking for a good fruit beer. Quite contrary to my expectations, though, I didn’t expect to like any fruit beer… Not this much at least.
- Mikkeller Spontangooseberry
This beer had, in my perception, also quite a bit of bitterness. That, on top of the yeasty sourness of spontaneous fermentation and gooseberries made this a flavor bomb. Just not one I liked it. It was all a bit too much for me.
Add to that that the price of a bottle of this (375ml) is over 11 euros makes this a miss in my book.
- Oude Geuze Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen
Back to traditional Belgian Geuze. This one, compared to what came before, was very crisp and quite a bit more sour than expected. More so that the above beers so that came as a bit of a surprise. After the first face contorting sip we got used to it and were forced to conclude that this might actually be a bit better than Cantillon. Less friendly, but more crisp and sour.
- Mort Subite Geuze (2015)
Then the last one. It was midnight by now and we hoped to go out with a bang. I have quite a lot of these babies stashed in the crawl space under the floor. The supermarket had them when I was in Belgium a while back so I emptied the shelf. Really cheap, compared to what we pay in The Netherlands for this style of beer.Anyway, it didn’t live up to expectations. The acidity was there, sure, but there was also a weird and unwanted sweetness that reminded me of banana candy. So, not banana, but banana flavoring. This ruined the palate of this beer and I don’t even think I finished it.
Regarding my stash of this, I hope it improves with age…
So, sour beers is a big yes, but there’s some crap out there too. Or, maybe crap isn’t the correct descriptor. Maybe it’s just as with all booze that there are lots of people interested in the ones I don’t like.
It was a very interesting night with a lot of surprisingly good beers. I guess the trick is now to get some more good Geuzes and age them for a decade or so, so we can do a comparing tasting between fresh and old.