Southwest of Brussels, in the quiet Belgian town of Vlezenbeek, the Lindemans family has been farming and homebrewing as long as anyone can remember. Commercial brewing started in 1811 in their barn-like brewery.
Lambic, or spontaneously fermented beers, are among the world’s rarest. Produced more like a methode champenoise champagne, than a typical beer, these products mature in oak for nearly two years prior to release.
Merchant du Vin introduced Lindemans lambics to the United States in 1979, making them the first lambics marketed in U. S. history. To this day, they remain both the best selling and most widely honored brand in the category; including being named "One of the Top Ten Breweries in the World" for four consecutive years.
The romantic, mysterious, wild-fermented wheat beers of Belgium’s Flanders are among the world’s rarest beers. The unique natural combination of the Senne River valley; small hills with numerous cherry trees; small farms growing hops, barley and wheat; and wooden kegs with fermentation liquids, has given the region an air-disseminated microflora that has seeded farm breweries for more than 500 years.
The mashing process is very much the same as with other styles, except for the unique addition of 30 percent unmalted wheat to the malted barley. Whereas most brewers use the freshest hops during the boil, lambic brewers use aged hops to contribute preservative properties without the bitterness of the herb (this protection is important to the final product, since it is such a long process from start to finish). Singularly, in the world of brewing, no yeast is added to this beer. After the boil, lambic wort is transferred into a coolship (a large, shallow, copper vessel) that exposes the hot wort to the cool fresh air and wild yeast! The fermenting rooms are dark and filled with cobwebs and brewers dare not clean their brewing cellars for fear of losing the natural yeasts.
The beer is top-fermented by the wild yeast strains Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces lambicus, whereas most ales use the cultivated yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The yeast enters through louvers in the barn’s walls that are raised during the brewing season.
After fermentation, the beer is transferred into "hogsheads" (casks) for two summers of maturation. A second, slower fermentation takes place in the oak. After aging, the base lambic is treated in different ways to make different beers.
Without question, lambic is the world’s most unusual and some say best beer. Lambic is unique in that the brewing process often takes several years. Lambics are a complex family of beers, which include dry aperitif beers, full-bodied dinner beers and fruity dessert beers.
For gueuze, the base lambic is blended to make a distinct, wine-like drink that is traditionally served with the meal (a blend of 1/3 young lambic and 2/3 old lambic). Gueuze is known to mature beautifully, and stories abound of discovering age-old gueuze lambics that had matured to perfection.
Lindemans, which originally made only traditional unfiltered gueuze, switched to the filtered version because it is quicker to make. Realizing that there were almost no traditional gueuzes being produced, Merchant du Vin convinced Rene Lindemans, Head Brewer, to discontinue the filtered version and concentrate only on the finest traditional bottle-conditioned product. Cuvee Rene was born! It is a golden turbid wine-like beer that balances a malty fruit and a complex yeasty acidity with exceptional finesse. Cuvee Rene is a blend of lambics of various ages and is destined to be the standard by which gueuze is judged.
Fruit Lambics Simplified:
Nowadays lambic fruit beers are extremely popular. The first fruit beers were made with sour cherries growing in villages around Brussels. The most famous in Schaarbeek, which gave its name to the best variety. In the 1930s different farm breweries restarted brewing kriek by adding crushed cherries to young lambic in the casks
Artisanal lambic breweries, such as Lindemans Farm Brewery, make their fruit beers by blending the lambic and fresh fruit before bottling producing Kriek (cherry), Framboise (raspberry), and Pêche (peach). When the brewery makes Kriek, whole fresh cherries are added to the casks, triggering a third fermentation and promoting a spritzy carbonation that gives the finished beer a champagne-like character.