Just published is the second edition of LambicLand, a labor of love and extremely useful guide to the world of lambic. The new (English only) edition has three important elements rolled into one 128 page-long book: an introduction to the spontaneously fermented beers of the Payottenland, a complete overview of all the lambic brewers / geuze blenders and their beers, and a section on lambic tourism. The authors (Tim Webb, Chris Pollard and Siobhan McGinn) strike a thoughtful balance between understanding the commercial incentives to produce fake sweet lambics and the importance of preserving tradition and using the renewed (international) interest in lambic brewing to return to tradition. With the exception of the awful Belle-Vue brewery, I get the impression that many of the quasi-traditional lambic brewers are interested in returning to the more authentic styles and adding more “oude” and unsweetened lambics to their year-round bottled beers. Also encouraging is the rise of new gueuze blenders like Gueuzerie Tilquin. The only sad information in the book is 3 Fonteinen’s retrograde movement from brewer back to blender as a result of a number of unfortunate events. Surely, something can be done about this!
Even a rabid lambic fanatic as myself found some interesting tidbits of information that I was not aware of such as the origin of the word Brettanomyces, the story behind Boon’s Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait, and Hanssens’s memorable but exploding Mead the Geuze bottles. For friends of lambic beer, the most useful part is the tourism section with a comprehensive list of lambic-friendly pubs, museums, shops and hotels.
As the United States is drawing closer to producing real spontaneously fermented beers, a discussion about what should be called a lambic beer will be inevitable at some point. As I read it, the authors seem to agree that the survival of traditional lambic brewing may depend on the freedom to use the lambic label for all beers that are made in the traditional way employing spontaneous fermentation. Considering what is at stake, I do not see any reason to disagree, and hopefully some non-Belgian traditional lambics will be featured in a future edition of the book.
If you are interested in lambic beer, or unique beer history in general, purchase a copy of this information-rich, color illustrated book and use it during your next trip to Belgium.