For Christmas this year, some friends got us a couple bottles of Lindeman’s Lambicwhich we’ve been saving for a special occasion, or for a slow week here on IPTB. We’ve been pretty focused on cocktails and recipes lately, so it seems to me that a beer review is in order.
For those not familiar with lambic, it’s a unique variety of beer made only in Belgium. What differentiates lambic from most other beer is the fermentation process. Really dedicated brewers tend to obsess over their process and ingredients, and one of the major targets for that obsession is the yeast. Various strains of yeast have been bred and developed over centuries to lend unique flavors and qualities to beer and almost every other alcoholic beverage. But where other brewers painstakingly select the yeast they want to use, lambic brewers aren’t so picky. Yeasts are actually single-cell microorganisms that occur naturally all over the place, so once lambic brewers have created their wort (a combination of grain and water) they place it in open vats and expose it to a natural breeze, thereby accumulating any yeast that happens to be wafting by. There is also a significant amount of yeast from the timber of the vats. Because the amount of yeast is comparatively low, lambic is aged in barrels for at least a year as fermentation is allowed to take its natural course.
Now, the bottles that we have are fruit lambics, one pomme (apple) the other kriek (cherry), which are probably what you’re most likely to find available here in the States. The fruit is introduced after the aging, which spurs a second round of fermentation. Though the bottles don’t list what the alcohol content is, I’m going to say that it’s fairly low. My guess is that these lambics don’t exceed 4-5% ABV.
Lindeman’s lambic is definitely a special occasion drink as you are apparently required to pass a series of trials before you can enjoy it. This is the first beer I’ve ever seen that is sealed with foil, followed by a cap, followed by a cork. I suppose the anticipation is part of the appeal.
Now, as we delve into this review, let’s begin with the kriek. The color is a deep red, which is almost opaque, and when pouring there is very little head. On the nose and first sip I was unpleasantly reminded of Robitussin. I admit though that that is an unfair association. Lindeman’s kriek is made with actual fresh sour cherries, the flavor that Robitussin is trying to imitate. The more you sip this lambic though, the easier it is to put childhood illness out of your mind and focus on the depth and dynamic of the flavor here. When you sip the kriek you are hit immediately with the sour cherry flavor, but as you roll it around your tongue this peters off into a short sweet finish that lingers just a second or two. The overall impression I get here is that the sweet and sour are battling. The sour comes on strong, but the sweet endures.
The pomme, in comparison, is almost a mirror image of the kriek. Clear and lightly golden in color, the pomme lambic also has a very light head. On the nose and right up front you get a strong, sweet apple flavor somewhere between cider and apple juice. However, the finish ends with a pronounced tartness, almost similar to a granny smith apple. Again, the finish doesn’t linger long, but it is quite distinct from the front of your sip.
Each of these lambics are very tasty and would make excellent dessert drinks. However, those looking for a more traditional beer may be disappointed. Individuals who are not fond of beer though, and who may prefer a sweeter drink (ahem, Aaron Crandall) might find these lambics to be a refreshing change of pace.