Within the pantheon of beer, to many, Cantillon is the holy grail. And for lovers of wine, there really is no substitute. Yesterday, I finally made my pilgrimage to Brussels and visited this 1900-founded, and still family-run, Lambic brewery. Today's offer features Cantillon's three primary bottlings: the Gueuze, Kriek (cherry), and Rosé de Gambrinus (raspberry).
A listing for any of these Lambics in the US is highly unusual. Currently, the only other listings are for $290 and $500 per 750mls. Today, I'm happy to offer each at $89 per bottle, and down to $83 per bottle on mixed 3-packs.
Lambics, also referred to as sours, initially pulled me in for their vinous qualities and unusual persistent finish. Often times I find a flinty reductive quality that calls to mind the best bottlings from white Burgundy producers such as Roulot, Lafon, and Coche-Dury. That driving intensity, crazy levels of concentration, so severe, and yet concluding with unparalleled freshness.
Commonly regarded as the world's most mysterious beer, Lambics are spontaneously fermented with natural yeasts. This is mother nature's most ancient brew. They are produced in, and around the city of Brussels. In the 1950's there were hundreds of Lambic brewers within this Pajottenland region of Belgium, but today only a few remain. The production is extremely labor intensive, and as a business proposition there simply wasn't the financial incentive 70 years ago for brewers to continue this tradition - technological advancements offered more desirable options.
Lambics are derived from about 35% wheat and 65% malted barley, with relatively small amounts of aged hops used.
Gueuze is a blend of three vintages of beer from barrel. The youngest vintage, still containing some sweetness, offers the necessary sugars to complete fermentation in bottle, resulting in a totally dry beer. The oldest vintage brings those more refined flavors that have developed while aging in barrel.
The Kriek bottling, using the local Schaerbeekse sour cherries (not so sour really), will take you back in one sip to the first time you had a bite of cherry pie as a child - one without the preservatives and confectionery qualities you'd find at a grocery store pastry section today. Tasting these freshly picked cherries yesterday in Belgium was a sense memory that will be tied to me forever. Thankfully, in glass, all of the raw qualities of these cherries holds strong.
The Gambrinus bottling uses local raaspberries A perfect, mysterious fit for this ancient style of beer. The slightly sour component of the Lambic melding with the pristine raspberry fruit. A nice counterpoint to the Kriek.
Following your heart as a wine lover into beer territory is not always easy, I know that as well as anyone. Once you taste the magic from this most fabled Lambic producer, you will become a believer in this ancient brew!
Cantillon Gueuze 750ml (Bottled 9/13/16)
$89 per bottle.
Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus 750ml (Bottled 1/16/2018)
$89 per bottle.
Cantillon Kriek 750ml (Bottled 1/24/18)
$89 per bottle.