I’ve been kinda orbiting sour beers for the past couple years. Like the scared apes at the beginning of 2001, I’ll cautiously approach the sour beer monolith and give it a tap every now and again. Sometimes I come away disappointed, but lately, I’ve been having more revelatory experiences than not. The first sour beer I ever had was Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, a beer that nearly puckered me into oblivion. As it turns out, gueuze is one of the more intense, harsh sour styles, so that beer set a strange reference point for me. It almost certainly should not have been my first sour beer, but I’m older and wiser now, and I thought it was time to revisit the style.
Gueuzerie Tilquin opened its doors a little over a year ago, when it became the first new Belgian lambic blendery in nearly 15 years. You might be tempted to ask: So what? But this is a pretty big occasion, as opening a brewery specializing in lambics is a very long, cost prohibitive venture. Tradtional lambics are spontaneously fermented (meaning none of them cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts are used, instead relying on wild yeasts and bacteria that live in the air all around us) and aged in oak barrels. And gueuze is an even trickier business, as it requires a blending of young lambic (about 1 year old) with old lambic (2 and/or 3 years old). So we’ve got a large initial investment, a tricky, uncertain process of fermentation, and no revenue for at least 2 years? This is pretty much a miracle.
So Pierre Tilqiun is a visionary. A patient one too. But he knows what he’s doing, having done tours of duty at Drie Fonteinen and Cantillon (for the uninitiated: these are legendary lambic breweries). I’m a little unclear on the distinctions, but I’m guessing that the reason it’s called a “Gueuzerie” is because Tilquin doesn’t actually make any of the wort they use to make their lambic, instead buying it from Boon, Cantillon, Girardin, and Lindemans. Apparently Tilquin is the only gueuze blender that Cantillon will sell their wort too, so good on them. Anyways, this beer was fantastic, and I think I’m now a full born believer in sour beer.
Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne – Pours a golden color with half a finger of bubbly white head. Smells strongly of musty funk and twangy, sour fruit. Taste has a more sugary component than expected, though still lots of tart fruit flavors, a little earthy funk, and a well rounded sourness that intensifies through the finish (but never reaches the gargantuan puckering levels I feared). Definitely picking up an oak aged vibe, though that may be more of a mouthfeel thing. Speaking of which, mouthfeel is well carbonated but smooth, not quite as effervescent as champagne and better for it, and there’s a richness to it that I associate with oak aged beers. Overall, this is fantastic stuff and makes me want to go out and buy every damn sour beer I can find. A-
Beer Nerd Details: 6% ABV bottled (750 ml caged and corked). Drank out of a tulip glass on 10/26/12. Label sez: 2010/2011 Best before: 15/04/2021.
The lament of the sour beer nerd: doesn’t it seem like it’s much harder to find Cantillon these days that it was a few years ago? For crying out loud, I saw Cantillon at Total Wine a couple years ago, but I can’t find any of it anywhere these days (except for $60 a pop for old bottles at a few local bars). But this is only a matter of time, expect to see some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen stuff reviewed, uh, as soon as I can find it. In the meantime I’ll have to settle for some Rodenbach vintage and Bruery sours. I know, poor me.
6 thoughts on “Oude Gueuze Tilquin Made a Believer Out of Me”
Really love this gueze. My favorite is definitely Drie Fonteinen but Tilquin comes close. And, yeah, they are a Geuzerie because they don’t brew. Just barrel and blending.
Also, yes, Cantillon is way harder to find than it used to be. And way more expensive as a result. Kind of sucks that I wasn’t paying more attention like three years ago but thems the breaks.
“Kind of sucks that I wasn’t paying more attention like three years ago but thems the breaks.”
Yes! Exactly my situation. I saw these all over the place a few years go, but never got into sours until this past year. Hopefully I can get ahold of some of this stuff soon though.
I’m definitely keeping an eye out for Drie Fonteinen Gueuze too. Fingers crossed.
The Drie Fonteinen should be easier to find. For whatever reason, only Cantillon has exploded like this. Give it another year and that might change, but we’ll see. I for one like Drie Fonteinen, then Tilquin, then Cantillon. But, it’s all a matter of opinion as they all have different flavor profiles. They are all quite good on the whole though.
Cantillon seemed like one of those breweries that was upset about the whole ebaying of beer, and I think they said that made them hesitant to distribute more to America. I wonder if that will reverse itself in time. Or I’m just full of crap.
I’ve had a hankering for Fantome lately, and those seem to be scarce too (with the notable exception of Noel, for some reason). Too much good beer, too little time.
I really liked this stuff. It had something about it that I didn’t get in the other gueuzes I’ve had. I got a grassy and lemony quality that I really liked. It kind of made it livelier than I was expecting.
Not sure if my palate has just adjusted to sour beers or if I’m just drinking better ones, but there’s only one way to find out. Now if I can just find some of these other ones!