EMPOURIUM
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LAMBIC

The beer wine lovers love

By Tamara Belgard

Lambic, thought to be the oldest beer in the western world, may also be the most unusual and the most polarizing: Some see it as the ultimate expression in the art of brewing; others don’t think of it as beer at all.

True Lambic is produced in a specific part of Belgium, where the style originated. If made here, the beer is “Lambic-inspired.”  Because of its fermentation style, it’s one of the closest beers to wine, expressing a sense of place, or terroir.

Exposed to wild yeasts and bacteria — as opposed to cultivated strains of brewer's yeast — the beer develops distinctively dry, vinous and cider-like flavors with high acidity and a sour aftertaste. Brettanomyces (Brett), a volatile yeast strain typically unwelcome in both breweries and wineries, dominates Lambic’s fermentation, delivering the funky, earthy, tart flavors people either love or hate.

Cloudy in appearance with mild carbonation, modern Lambics may be fermented with raspberries (framboise), peach (peche), cherry (kriek), apricots or even wine grapes. The fruit helps mellow the beer’s sour nature, adding complexity in flavor, aroma and color.

It’s been said, “It takes lots of great beer to make excellent wine,” and according to several Oregon winemakers who also love beer, the state’s Lambic-inspired beers fit that bill nicely.

The Ale Apothecary: Ralph

“Copper color with lots of carbonation. Aromas and flavors of tart apricot, pine needles — like Retsina, which makes me want Greek roasted potatoes — plus Smarties, mango Chilibonchas, and some biscuit-y yeastiness. All over the map with flavors and aromas, but in a good way. The enjoyable mixture of sour, malty and herbal provides dimension without fighting for attention.” —Thomas Houseman, Anne Amie Vineyards

Alesong: Pinot Gris Terroir

“Banana bread aromas, with layers of sweet clove-like spice, jump out of the glass. Following up is something fresh, like mornings in the mountains. Drier and crisp on the palate with golden apple, dried grass, golden raspberry and a summer woodsiness — like an oak grove in June. Reminiscent of my Queen D wine (note to taste them side by side).” —Brianne Day, Day Wines

Ale Apothecary: Sahalie

“Bright, tropical fruits (guava, lychee, lemon) hit you with an unexpected freshness. Swirl for an explosion of tiny bubbles that create a creamy texture, lifting the citrus and funky flavors. Let it sit for an earthy, tangy, dehydrated orange, whiskey or coffee richness. If you’re looking for me anytime soon, you’ll find me with a bucket of fried chicken and a big glass of this beer.” —Deven Morgenstern, Joyful Noise Wine

pFriem: Druif

“Though I’m not always into sour-style beers, this was rad. Funky components came through with lots of tropical fruit, white flower notes on the nose and a very full palate. The finish was brought into balance by the level of CO2 and overall acidity. Enjoy this with Asian pork or maybe a Cubano sandwich. Such a cool beer, I would drink this during harvest for sure.” —Sterling Whitted, Holden Wines

Cascade: 2016 Kreik Sour Ale

“Aged more than a year in what I presume to be Pinot Noir barrels, the beer is a reddish amber color and pretty tart right away, with lovely clean flavors of tart candy, pungent sour cherries, roasted barley and aged oak spice notes. It finishes dry and refreshing, despite it being sour. My stomach immediately felt good drinking this.” —Vincent Fritsche, Vincent Wine Company

pFriem: Apricot

“Fantastic! An excellent example of how Brett can be done right, just enough to add a little spicy, wild funk without dominating. The nose is strawberry fruit leather and butterscotch. On the palate, it’s more sour, as in pickled green strawberries and a hint of cola with peaty, whiskey-like notes. Light-bodied, thirst-quenching and easy to polish off in a single sitting. Allow it to open up at room temp to coax out its complexities.” —Jenny Mosbacher, Fossil and Fawn

Upright Brewing: Ives

“As drinkable as a Kölsch with tons of complexity, color that’s reminiscent of beerenauslese Riesling and beautiful tiny bubbles. Heavy Brett aromas quickly relax, revealing a fruit-filled nose with hints of amaro and creaminess. The palate offers stone fruit, lemon zest bursts of hibiscus and rose petal, and a hint of saline making me thirst for the next swig.” —Barnaby Tuttle, Teutonic Wine Company

 

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