Monday, August 31, 2015
Gueuze or Geuze?
Gueuze - or Geuze using the Flemish spelling – is not brewed, but blended, or gestoken in Flemish. This lambiek-based beer dates back to the 19th century, when a lambiek brewer based in Geuzenstraat (rue des Gueux)
in Brussels wanted to deliver some lambiek to private clients but found himself bereft of barrel space.
Instead, he poured his beer into empty champagne bottles. He observed that the resulting beer had a higher clarity and had developed a frothy sparkle as a result of in-bottle re-fermentation.
A name was quickly found, based on where this beer style originated. Drinkers asked for gueuze lambiek or Gueuze for short. If you lived in the Zenne valley, you would use the term “bottle lambiek”.
Plenty of experiments were conducted to improve this bottled lambiek. Bottles were filled off with a blend of young and old lambiek that would re-ferment in the bottle.
The young lambiek prompted the fermentation and the old lambiek determined the final taste.
A typical blend is made up of 60% young lambiek (one year old), 30% two-year-old lambiek, and 10% that is three years old. Gueuze beer is cloudy, its color varying between matt gold and amber.
Its flavor is tart and this beer is not low on alcohol, coming in at between 5% and 8% by volume. Interestingly, thanks to the in-bottle re-fermentation, Gueuze has a very low sugar content – 0.2%
Brewing & Blending
Gueuze is a great beer for to store, as the wild yeasts continue their work in the bottle until all residual sugars have been converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are two types of Gueuze makers. Lambiek brewers are involved in the steken, or blending, of their own Gueuzes.
You will also come across Gueuzestekers, including De Cam, Oud Beersel, Hanssens and Tilquin, who buy Lambiek to create their own final blends.
Several years ago the ‘Oude Gueuze’ label was accorded legal protection by the European Union. Brewers are now only allowed to call their product Oude Gueuze if the older lambiek used in the process has been aged for three years, has matured in oak barrels and is free of any artificial sweeteners.
An artisan Gueuze of this type may be recognized by its champagne-type bottle that must be topped by a cork and a wire cage that prevents the cork from flying out.
Gueuze is often sold in these champagne-type bottles, usually containing 37.5 or 75 centiliters. So why is this kind of bottle used for such a popular drink?
Both Champagne and Gueuze ferment in the bottle releasing carbon dioxide and building up a pressure. When you open up a bottled Gueuze, a pressure of up to six bars atmosphere? is released. A sturdy bottle is needed for the job.
All these different varieties are popularly just called “Gueuze”, a blanket term that includes pure artisan brews and industrially produced beers enhanced with sweeteners.
A Delicate Product
Like Lambiek, Gueuze is a rather delicate product. Managing its spontaneous fermentation takes years of experience. Many factors have an impact on the end result: temperature, the maturation on wood, not forgetting the workings of the wild yeast…The proportions of old and young Lambiek varies between different Gueuzes.
The general preference is for a ‘tender’ Lambiek, one that is not too sour. The more Old Lambiek is added, the longer-lasting and deeper will be the aromas you will find in your glass.
A classic Gueuze is likely to contain a small proportion of young Lambiek, typically only around 15%. A successful re-fermentation produces persistent air bubbles and lends liveliness to the brew.
A Gueuze is dry, tart and either fruity or fragrant with roasted aromas.
After at least five consecutive, interacting in-barrel fermentation phases, the lambiek beers will be ‘cut’ (blended) in three stages that allow them to continue their development.
This process is once again governed by four or five of the original yeasts and other micro flora, hence the complex character of this beer. True connoisseurs swear by a fully fermented Oude Gueuze. This brew is allowed to have a hint of cloud when served, with yeast deposits gathering at the bottom of the glass.
Both Lambiek and Gueuze are veritable thirst quenchers. They serve as an aperitif to stimulate the appetite at all sorts of official functions.
Gueuze is served in a cone-shaped glass, with indents towards the bottom and a thick, sturdy base. If you find your Gueuze just slightly on the sour side, you can add a sugar cube to be mashed up in the bottom of the glass using an iron device called a Lambiekstoemper.
If you want to delve further into the world of Lambiek beers, the place to go is Café Anvers. Here you can taste house Gueuze, Lambic, Faro, Kriek, and other Belgian Beers.