Sour beers are somewhat outside of my realm of beer knowledge; I'll admit that from the start. Whether it be a Berliner Weisse beer with its lemony tartness, an oud bruin with its complex, malty, vinous notes, or the good ol' American wild ale with who-knows-what kind of barrels involved in the aging process, I've always found it a bit difficult to approach these styles in reviews. I've only reviewed one other sour, and it was Russian River's Supplication which had the benefit of being aged with cherries in sauvignon blanc barrels giving a very complex and notable character that I found it easy to elaborate upon... today, I'm going for the opposite end of the spectrum with what is simultaneously one of the most widely-available and highly-rated gueuzes in the world, Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René.
What is a gueuze? Well, my understanding is that a gueuze is an unfiltered lambic blend composed, typically and traditionally, of an old and young lambic in the presence of wild yeast in the "method champenoise" or "champagne style." This blending and maturation period provides distinct tart, dry, funky and complex flavors that are not achievable in many other common beer styles. After uncapping it, I found that it was still corked so I had to edge that out and, to my enjoyment, it popped nice and loud. Contents are quite under pressure, clearly, as my first very soft/highly-angled pour yielded a ratio of about 3:1 head-to-beer. Very tight, white suds adorn this beer and take a long time to let up. The body is surprisingly dark with
First sip is churning with powerful, frontal carbonation that pushes raspberry, lemon, orange and wheat malt aspects towards a dry, assertive finish. There's a bit of a lingering astringent bitterness in the back that, as the style would dictate, doesn't seem particularly "hoppy." I'd imagine it comes from the yeast strains that are active in here; after all, champagne is also very dry. Beer like this is so far removed from traditional ale and lager styles and it's all because of beautiful little yeast cells like Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces lambicus (which, it is said, is actually named after the beer style, which in turn is named after the Belgian village of Lembeek) causing spontaneous fermentation; this beer, like many Belgian style brews, is actually made by leaving the barrels open after the malts are boiled down into sugars/proteins. The natural yeast flora in the air around Brussels do the rest! Vinegar/acetic acid and some light lactic touches also act on the tongue during the middle of the palate before some of the wheat base malt takes over. The lingering flavor is of earth and hay with a decidedly "funky" flavor that just sticks around on the tongue long after each sip. Very chalky and dry finish, but the carbonation does calm down a bit as the beer warms making it a little less aggressive. This is such an enjoyable, bright, complex, weird and fantastic beer. Then again, I really haven't had a bad example of the style and have enjoyed basically every intentionally-sour beer I've had. I hope to get even more experience with these soon!
The official breakdown:
- Style: Gueuze
- ABV: 5.5%
- Appearance: Hazy golden/orange with great retentive head and surprisingly fluffy yet delicate lace. No real opacity at all as is to be expected
- Scent: Musty, funky, grassy and earthy. Slight lemon and green apple skin are notable especially as it warms. Perhaps it's even a bit savory and vinegary in the nose
- Taste: Very well-structured/layered notes of pear, tart apple, orange, vinegar, raspberry, oak and wheat combine with a nice puckering finish
- Mouthfeel: Expressive carbonation at first comes off as pushy and aggressive but calms down as the beer oxidizes. Seems soft despite initial tartness/dryness
- Drinkability: Hard to rate. If you like sour things, you'll find this a really fun, enjoyable drink. Otherwise, you might have trouble with it