Beer of the Week: Tilquin Oude Gueuze a l'Ancienne
What's this, one of my favourite beers ever for beer of the week? Alright then.
A short intro to gueuze for the uninitiated - gueuze is a type of lambic, which itself is a wild-fermented sour Belgian beer. Gueuze is specifically a blend of 1-year old ('young') lambic with 2-3 year old ('old') lambic that then undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle thanks to the not-fully fermented young lambic, adding carbonation.
Many gueuze producers brew the wort for their gueuzes, but Tilquin
is actually just a gueuzerie, that is, they ferment fresh wort brewed by other producers in oak and blend the resulting lambics to make their gueuze. Tilquin Oude Gueuze a l'Ancienne
specifically contains 1, 2 and 3-year old lambic refermented and aged in the bottle for at least 6 months. The
'Oude' means old, i.e. traditional, and signifies that the beer contains at least two different 100% lambics, with no added sugar.
First impressions of this beer stem from its wild fermentation—it's instantly tart when you taste it, and on the nose there's a definite little farmyard hint (a funk if you will, though I know lots of people hate that word). On the nose it's got honey but also a notable savouriness, slightly thyme-y, and some lemon. Once you taste it, and once you get past the tartness, it's gently fruity, with hints of white grape, raspberry and a bit of apricot. It's not sweet at all though, it's got quite a bit of minerality and a bit of earthiness too as well as tartness.
One of my favourite things about something like Tilquin's Oude Gueuze is how versatile it is, not just with regards to food (I highly recommend it with cheese & onion crisps, by the way) but in terms of situation - it's complex enough, fancy enough and sparkling enough to be a celebration beer for sure, but also thanks to its subtlety, as well as a more accessible half-bottle format (although it comes in 750ml
too), it doesn't need to be for a special occasion at all.
I honestly can't encourage anyone enough to try a gueuze, and this is a great introduction. If you already like natural wine or cider, wild fermented beer is already almost certainly right up your street, or if you're looking to branch out from IPAs and pales, an 'intro' gueuze like this is a great place to start.