Beer: Oude Gueuze Cuvée René from Lindemans and Bourgogne des Flandres Brune from Timmermans

Oude Gueuze Cuvée René from Lindemans
Paul McConville

ONCE upon a time, brewers thought that beer only had three ingredients – grain, hops and water. What made that concoction into beer was considered to be some form of celestial intervention as the wort was exposed to the air to ferment.

The Reinheitsgebot, the world's oldest food standard edict, was the Bavarian law established in 1516 which decreed that beers could only be made from water, barley and hops.

As yeast was eventually give its dues in its own right, it was added to the list, but how it has been used over the years has given us some weird and wonderful years.

Brewers of Belgian lambics, for example, tend to take a more spontaneous approach to the whole area of fermentation. This is the point when I wish I had paid more attention in chemistry (and perhaps biology) class in school.

A lambic beer is one which is exposed to the airborne elements, leaving fermentation in the lap of godly microbes floating about the brewery air. Of course, this can lead to wild inconsistencies between batch, which is spontaneous fermentation and expert blending go hand in hand.

Many Belgian lambics are widely available here, and I picked up a couple in the Drink Link in Newry recently.

First up was the classic Oude Gueuze Cuvée René from Lindemans. It's a sign of the esteem in which this beer is held that it comes in a half-sized champagne bottle, the green bottle resplendent in a golden foil top which conceals the cork below.

A 5.5 per cent golden-coloured lambic, it is a blend of old and newer batches which has been aged in oak barrels and given a secondary fermentation in the bottle. This means you'll get different taste experience between two identical bottles poured six months apart.

The one I had emitted sour and fruity aromas, which were very much reflected in the taste. There's a clean, crisp dryness to it as well.

Next up was Bourgogne des Flandres Brune from Timmermans, a 5 per cent mixed-fermented Flanders red ale. This tended far more towards the sweet end of things. A dark brown colour in the glass, it had a smooth and silky mouthfeel and hints of sour cherry popping through too.

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