Thursday, January 15, 2009
Gueuze - the Champagne of Beers
Let's start by pointing out the bleeding obvious: Miller High Life is not the Champagne of Beers. There is, however, a type of beer that does qualify for that title, and that is Gueuze beer from Belgium. Gueuze is a type of Lambic beer. You may already be familiar with Lambic beers because they are often blended with fruit juice and in this form sell very well. Lambic beers are not necessarily always mixed with fruit juice though. They are a type of ale brewed with a mixture of barley and wheat and undergo spontaneous fermentation, which is what sets them apart from other beer. Most beers are brewed using yeast cultures. Spontaneous fermentation is when you expose the beer to the elements and wild yeast ferments the beer for you. This technique is used sometimes in winemaking with what are known as natural wines. If you saw a Lambic brewery you would probably find it pretty dirty. This is intentional, because if you keep your brewery spic and span you kill off all those wild yeasts. You in effect have to create your own ecosystem in your brewery. This makes it a delicate process. Several American brewers have tried and failed to replicate the style.
Which brings us back to Gueuze. Geuze is a special type of Lambic. It is a blend of older Lambic beers which are rounder with high acid, tart young lambic. Like Champagne, it is refermented in the bottle to create the carbonation. In fact, it often comes in Champange-like bottles. These beers are amazingly complex. They are higher in acidity than most beers making them excellent with food. The flavors are somewhat wine-like with a tart fruitiness, a long finish and even some minerality. In other words, my kind of beer. If you are a beer lover and you have not tried these you are really missing out. Gueuze, in my opinion, is probably the most interesting and sophisticated of all beers. And at a fraction of the price of Champagne, you can have a Champagne-like experience (almost) without spending so much money. While it doesn't quite reach the heights of truly great Champagne, I will say without qualification that a bottle of Geuze (usually around $12-$20 for 750ml) is better than nearly any wine you could get for the same price.
Yes, they are available at kybecca. You can buy the beauty in that picture for $11.99.