After missing two installments of Toer de Geuze I was excited to attend this year’s event. To say that a lot has changed since I attended my first Toer de Geuze in 2009 is an understatement. Toer de Geuze 2019 is a well-organized two-day event now with attendees from all over the world. The participating breweries are no longer struggling to survive but are expanding their production (or even locations), launching new products, and collect wine-style prices for special (international) releases. Some things don’t change, however, and Cantillon and Girardin remain absent from the line-up. The biggest surprise for me was that some of the most interesting brews I sampled were from breweries and blenders that previously mostly dabbled in non-exceptional geuzes or sweetened faux lambics.
As in prior years, we gathered in front of the Halle Train Station for our bus of choice. Despite the event comprising two days it is challenging to attend all your favored breweries and blenders and some tough decisions had to be made. This year we omitted Drie Fonteinen and De Cam, although we had a lunch at the latter location the day prior to the event. The tour guides in our bus was an excellent Flemish speaker and mastered English sufficiently enough to articulate some choice words for those who fail to return in time to the bus to visit the next destination.
We arrived at our first destination, Timmermans, during a bout of rather heavy rain. Fortunately, the weather significantly improved throughout the duration of the event. The collection of old equipment, beer labels, and posters at Timmermans was a sight to behold for lambic historians.
My expectations for Lindemans were modest as even their “traditional” lambics always seemed a rather bland affair to me. I had been intrigued with their botanical lambics releases, though, and was surprised how potent and fresh the SpontanBasil smelled and tasted, reinforcing my impression that the green notes in these lambics are fragile and fading.
We were also able to blend and bottle our own geuze, which permits designing a geuze with a higher proportion of old lambic.
Boon remains a great destination for a longer stop and their sleek black “Vat X” bottles intrigue and beg for side-by-side comparison. Hanssens remains as rustic as ever and the to-go-to destination for lambic lovers who like a little acetic acid in their lambic.
I had never been to visitor center De Lambiek in Beersel and their great selection of regional lambics for sale presented a good opportunity to start the second day by comparing fruit lambics and purchasing other bottles without dealing with the longer lines at other locations.
I have always respected the Oud Beersel history and blending activities but their bottled lambics always seemed somewhat basic to me. Oud Beersel has ventured on some serious experimentation now and their offerings included such gems as rose- and tea-infused lambics (Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong), geuzes aged in wine barrels, and blending 3-year old lambics to create a more mature geuze. This trend towards “deeper” and “greener” lambics is totally to my liking.
If you want to explore the rich history and traditions of lambic at a measured pace, and enjoy these drinks in splendid isolation, Toer de Geuze is no longer a good vehicle for this but there is so much going on during the event that attendance remains a must. Maybe next time we skip the buses and opt for a do-it-yourself itinerary.