Lambic beer is unique from brewing to bottling. Inspired by ancient practice in Belgium, where beers are left to ferment wild in open-topped fermenters, exposed to air, Lambics are a sour, cloudy, low carbonated beer.
Lambic Brewing Process
Lambic was first brewed in the Pajottenland region of Belgium southwest of Brussels. Lambic beers include gueuze and fruit lambics. The history Lambic is quite bulky, and complicated.
Lambic uniqueness from other beers is deeply rooted in its production process and perception behind it. It is usually fermented through the exposure of wild yeasts and bacteria as opposed to the norm today in brewing-industrial fermentation of carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeast.
This process gives the beer its distinctive flavor; dry, vinous, and cidery, giving it a sour aftertaste.
Many are unfamiliar with the enduring natural production process of Lambic beer. Instead of subjecting it to modernized industrial processing, microorganisms are left to handle the job effortlessly.
The usual technique of making most commercial beers involves the selection of strains of yeast by brewers. Interestingly for Lambic beers, the story is vividly different. The brewers of Lambic left it in the hands of nature. Certainly, nature knows how to fix and perfect its phenomenon.
Lambic is stored in open vats where the wild yeast and bacteria are left to breed and reside in the barrels. After a while, a variety of micro-organisms proceed to produce alcohol and lactic acid needed to complete the remarkable process. The highpoint is an unhindered natural procedure resulting in a sour frothy beer with millions of bubbles.
Once the fermentation process begins, the beer is transferred into oak barrels to age for a year or more. The long period enables the bacteria and wild yeast mix up and make the historic Lambic beer.
People have explored the use of Lambic by fermenting it with fruits like raspberries, apricots, and even Muscat grapes. The result adds another level of complexity to the beer. The outcome is a balancing of the sour brew with tart and sweet fruit flavors.
Types of Lambic
The most widely known types are Gueuze and Fruit lambics. Gueuze is a blend of old (2-3 yrs) and young (less than a year) lambic. The old and young lambics are blended- maintaining some of the vital microbials- and then bottled for a second fermentation, which produces a crips carbonation. It has a dry, sour, cider-like taste.
The Fruit Lambics come in different varietals. Traditionally, there is the Kriek, which is fermented with cherries; Framboise, which is fermented with raspberries; and Cassis, which is fermented with black currant. For kriek, local sour cherries, known as Shaarbeek, are preferred and most traditional. The fruit renews the fermentation as the yeast eats up the sugar in the fruit. The result is a dry, fruit-essences beer with bitter, mineral, earthy flavors.
If you have not tried a lambic, you should. The Framboise is probably the most popular and most accessible so start there. It is not too sour. If you are like my husband and I, then you like trying all beers so trying a lambic may be a good introduction to sour beers.
If you have a favorite Lambic, let us know in the comments. You may also enjoy reading our article about Mead.