Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lambic Blending: Tasting & Learning

When I heard about, and eventually signed up for, the lambic blending at Bazi Bierbrasserie I had only this brief description to go on. What was meant by "participants will get to sample six different lambic blends," brought multiple meanings to my mind. However, knowing that lambics are a beer style I like (really, there aren't many I don't like), I figured whatever the meaning I would likely enjoy myself.

As the seminar began Lanny Hoff of Artisanal Imports introduced himself (MN readers will likely be familiar with him) and Powered by Yeast owner Tim Ensign. Before the beer began flowing we got some history about lambics in general, a style I learned has a strong history of blending. We also learned about the unique shape of the coolership where the hot wort is cooled overnight. In addition to cooling, the wort is inoculated with wild yeast and bacteria. All of the lambics we'd be tasting were imported from Brewery Bockor in Bellegem, Belgium, maker of Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge, which would be the "final destination" in our seminar. Before we get to the end, we must start at the beginning.

Taste #1: 100% Young - This sample didn't taste like much, certainly not much like beer, which is fine as we learned it's only used for blending. It's brewed from the same wort as the "old" beer but is fermented normally using pitched lager yeast and fermented in stainless steel tanks.
Taste #2: 75% Young/25% Old - As would be expected, this was noticeably more tart than the previous sample. 
Taste #3: 50% Young/50% Old - Here we started getting to the puckery stage, a stage that most people prefer.

Taste #4: 25% Young/75% Old - Here the beer changed course from the puckery path to the delicious funky path. In case you weren't previously aware I quite enjoy "manure" in my beer, or as it might more delicately be known "horsey."
Taste #5: 100% Old - This was probably one of the highlights of the seminar, one of the reasons the $20 cost was well worth it. This beer is rare, unusual, and is typically impossible to find being sold on tap, as is.

Taste #6: Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge - This is the finished product, a blend of two to three barrels of 100% old that has been blended with malt extract. Besides giving a slight residual sweetness, it also gives the beer the red hue familiar to Flemish Sour/Flanders Red lovers.

For being only an hour in length, it was an hour jam packed with information that was new to this longtime lover of the style.

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