Bottled unblended lambic

cantillon_bruocsellaAlmost all lambic beers that are sold to consumers are either lambic with added fruit, or a blend of young and old lambics (geuze). But perhaps the oldest style of lambic is just the unblended version of the beer, which can be consumed while it is still young or after many years of fermentation. Young lambic (or fox lambic)  cannot be bottled because the  ongoing carbon dioxide generation of the remaining sugars would shatter the bottle. It can be consumed, however, from a cask at the brewery or on draft at neighboring cafes in the Brussels area in Belgium. Some American cafes  like Philadelphia’s Monk’s Cafe have served young lambic.

Young lambic is a cloudy, flat,  sour, and dry product and is  served when 6 months to one year of age, although theoretically a young lambic can be sampled at a very young age. These very young lambics are still in the early stages of fermentation and  without many of the characteristics of a mature lambic. Perhaps an even rarer style that has found its way to select consumers are unblended versions of fruit lambic. Uncarbonated or slightly carbonated versions of Cantillon’s Saint Lamvinus and Kriek have been reported.

At the other end of the spectrum are unblended aged lambics, or “vieux lambic.” Unlike young lambics, such aged unblended lambics can be bottled because generation of carbon dioxide has run its course, leaving a dry, sharp, sour and still beer.  This style of lambic is the furthest removed from what most people consider a beer and has more similarities with a bone dry wine, and the Vin Jaune wines from the Jura region in France in particular. As demand is not high for aged “straight lambic,” only a few lambic producers have offered bottled unblended lambic. Cantillon offers a three year aged straight lambic under the name Grand Cru Bruocsella. Geuze blender De Cam has bottled a 5 year old lambic called “De Cam Oude Lambiek,” supposedly as a consequence of persistent demand from some Japanese (!) consumers.

Perhaps the increasing popularity of traditional Belgian lambic beers will generate more demand for bottling of aged unblended lambics from other lambic producers. And with the increasing interest in real wild fermentation in the United States, aged unblended wild ales may become a possibility as well.