Cantillon – Iris


Iris is a unique beer for Cantillon, because it uses 100% barley malt.  Cantillon’s lambics, and lambics in general, are made up of a mixture of barley malt and wheat.  Another unique feature of Iris is the use of fresh dried hops for dry-hopping the beer.  Lambics use hops for their more ancient use in beer – their antibacterial quality.  Modern processes negate this need but lambics, being fermented openly with airborne yeasts in a largely uncontrolled manner, still benefit greatly from a healthy dose of hops to help prevent spoilage.  Older hops are used as they allow a higher quantity to be used without overdoing the flavour.  Iris, however is dry hopped (happens towards the end of the brewing process) with fresh hops for a more pronounced bitterness.  Iris does have many of the classic Cantillon features though: it is spontaneously fermented, bottle conditioned, and oak aged for two years.

A:  Iris appears a reddish gold, or an orange amber.  The head is small but fizzley, and crackles and pops its way into disappearance within a few seconds.

S: There is tart apple, plenty of funkiness and sourness, and lemon citrus.

T: Funky, sort of musty malt character, pretty light on the malts and with a citrus (lemon, and orange) hop kick that offers up some bitterness that really works in conjunction with the oak flavours imparted in the beer.  Finishes dry with an apple cider vinegar quality.

M: Gentle, fine carbonation and a light and crisp feel.

O: It is an interesting and very enjoyable beer, both unique and familiar at the same time.





Cantillon – Kriek 100% Lambic Bio


Today, the 14th of September 2013, has been badged ‘Sour Beer Day’, likely to coincide with Cantillon’s annual Zwanze Day.  On Zwanze Day, very limited edition Cantillon bottlings are tapped at select pubs worldwide.  In honour of Zwanze Day, I have cracked a bottle of Cantillon Kriek that I had in the cellar.  Unfortunately, I lacked the commitment to purchase tickets to Vancouver’s first Zwanze Day happening at The Alibi Room.

Kriek is a fairly popular style of fruit lambic made with sour cherries.  Most breweries who specialize in lambics also do a kriek of their own, Cantillon is simply one of the most well respected.  In my experience, they tend to be sweeter than they are sour, fizzy carbonation, almost like a cherry soda.  I had not previously had Cantillon’s version, though.  This particular bottle was bottled in December, 2011 putting it at nearly 2 years cellared.

Cantillon’s kriek pours a deep red with white head that appears pink due to the liquid below.  It is a darker hue than the Rose from my memory.  The smell is quite tart and acidic with a sweetness that comes across as something like a cherry-infused vinegar.  Taking a sip results in a puckeringly sweet-sour start, like sour candy.  This initial hit eases into a smooth, almost creamy gentle cherry flavour, still sour but more balanced.  The finish is dry, though not as dry as most Cantillon offerings.  This is the most sour Cantillon I’ve had to date, and for me that is a great thing.  I would imagine that those who are seeking a more neutral, balanced kriek may find this too sour for their tastes though.



3fonteinen Oude Gueuze ‘Golden Blend’


When I think of gueuze, 3 Fonteinen (or Drie Fonteinen) is at the top of the pyramid (along with Cantillon).  3F (for short) has been around since 1887 and has always done exactly what they do today: blend lambics gathered from various other breweries to create exactly what they want the final product to be.

Golden Blend is a special release from 3 Fonteinen of which 25% is four year oak barrel-aged lambic, an unusually old lambic.  The reason this isn’t done more is not due to impatience but because a large amount of the lambic is lost to evaporation through the porous wood.  The remaining three-quarters is made up of a blend of 1, 2, and 3 year aged lambics.  This older mix creates an unusually high price tag to boot – here in Vancouver, a 375mL bottle of Golden Blend is typically around the $20 mark.  This particular bottle I picked up a couple months ago but it was bottled in February 2011.

The beer pours a bright orange-straw with massive head.  Smell is that archetypal gueuze tartness, citrus, and oak.  Definitely some sweetness too.  The smell is not unlike much cheaper gueuzes, but the difference does show up a bit more on the taste.  It is a familiar gueuze taste of musky, acidic body but the finish is especially sharp and a little more bitter than I’m used to, much like lemon peel.  There is more oak influence in this than usual, and that is most certainly due to the use of 4 year lambic.  This is very dry, and has a distinct dustiness to the finish that I can only assume is the acidity, dryness, lemon zest and barnyard qualities working together.  Or maybe it’s dust; after all, there was a ton of it around the cork.

Overall this is an outstanding gueuze.  The carbonation is spot-on and its drinkability is fantastic – great mix of gentle sweetness and citrus bitterness, and the sourness is plentiful without being overpowering.  For the money, I think there are better deals out there for sure but as an experience it is worth purchasing in smaller quantities.  I have a second bottle I will try to keep in the cellar for a few years to see what effect that has.




Cantillon – Rosé de Gambrinus


I have been (im)patiently waiting to open one of the several Cantillon bottles I was able to procure last month, feeling I really ought to get through the beers that are better fresher, such as the pile of IPAs I had somehow amassed.  I know it’s foreign to most people to have supply exceed demand on a regular basis when it comes to their beer collection, but it happens to me all the time.  But finally the fridge is rid of beers I really wanted to drink fresh, so I decided it’s time to crack open a Cantillon – and naturally, I chose the first one to open based on which I felt would be the best to enjoy fresh.

The Rosé is a 2 year old lambic that has had raspberries added near the end of its production.  This particular bottle was filled February 18th of this year, making it approximately 6 months old.  Being a lambic, this beer would age very well but it would be expected that the raspberry taste would mellow over time.  This can be a good thing, but being my only bottle of the stuff I wanted to experience the freshest raspberry taste I could.  I just noticed on the bottle it is best to be enjoyed within a year of bottling, or within 10 years of bottling is okay too.  So there you have it.


This beer pours an intense pinkish red with light pink head – about what you’d expect given the style and name.  The smell is classic gueuze / lambic – tart fruitiness, some subtle flower plant, and wine-like vinegar / grape notes.  The raspberry influence is subtle in the nose.  Taking a sip, the raspberry continues to be more subtle than I expected – it’s definitely present but its sweetness is gentle and extremely balanced.  The sourness is also fairly reserved and does not cause any puckering (this is both disappointing and highly enjoyable at the same time for me).  The quality of the lambic base is expectional and is what I’ve come to expect and love from Cantillon.  Its sweetness, sourness, acidity, and all its other attributes for that matter are gentle, but this doesn’t mean by any stretch that this is a boring or simple beer.  It finishes semi-sweet and a little dry, with a touch of age in the taste – but in a very pleasant way.  There isn’t any detectable “barnyard funk” according to my palate in the taste although there is a little in the nose; instead I think the yeast strings just add to the wood notes and wine-like quality.

I was expecting this to be one of the less exceptional Cantillons but it’s a home-run for me.  Awesome balance and great drinkability while retaining a full body and very interesting flavour.  Great carbonation too – this is one of my favourite features of a good example of this style – it has a fizzy, medium carbonation that dances on your tongue.


Deschutes Brewery – The Dissident 2012


Deschutes Brewery is one of those Oregon breweries that gives Oregon such a good reputation in the craft beer scene.  Personally, I’ve had a bit of an affinity for their beers for quite some time and to be honest it’s in part because of this reputation – I’ve only had a couple of their releases, but I would go to pretty great lengths (and personal cost) to get a hold of some of their limited offerings even though I’ve never had most of them.  The Dissident is a limited release with a lot of clout.  Like most of Deschutes’ limited releases here in BC, this comes at a high monetary cost as well – nearly double the cost of a similar brew from Driftwood, which is already not exactly cheap.

The Dissident has been released every second year – 2008, 2010, and 2012 so far.  Sour ales tend to be finicky to produce, as they must be quarantined from other ales to prevent contaminating the delicate balance that results from such spontaneous reactions that produce this sort of beer.  In addition to being high maintenance during production, there is a not insignificant aging period required as well.  These factors both add to the cost as well as the rarity.

With the 80/20 rule applied to this beer, it is 80% a sour cherry “malt beverage” and 20% French oak wine barrel aged “malt beverage”.  The closest beer I would say I’ve had to this is Driftwood’s Belle Royal, also a sour cherry ale.  This was both my thought before having the beer, and after having a taste as well.


The aroma of tart and sour cherry is evident as soon as the seal is broken, before the cap is even all the way off.  It is very characteristic of this style, and this particular beer has even slightly stronger scent than I’m used to.  The smell is primarily sour cherry, but not overly sweet – there is fermentation and funkiness in the smell, a little hint of oak as well.  It is very lactic and acidic.  The beer pours a copper / amber with a fizzy head that dissipates quickly and noisily.

Taking a sip, it is a hit of sourness combined with cherry sweetness, but I think the sweetness has dulled in the 8 or 9 months this beer as been cellared.  It finishes fairly dry.  The oakiness is definitely present towards the end as well; there is a dry woodiness note at the end.  This has a sharpness that the Belle Royale did not, like comparing an extra old cheddar vs. just standard cheddar.  The sharpness is very similar.  There is lots of vinegar here, almost more than I’d like.


Oh, I forgot to mention something, something that I didn’t even know when I opened this bottle and drank the first little bit of the bottle.  This brew is 11.4% ABV.  I think I figured out where that sharpness I was talking about came from – this is a big, big, big beer.  I was a little worried I’d held onto this bottle a little longer than I should have but upon closer inspection, this 2012 reserve bottling has a “Best AFTER” date of Aug 20th, 2013 – a mere 3 weeks away, but I’m still premature apparently.  I do have another bottle hidden away that I will revisit over winter to see whether or not this beer was at its prime or still before its prime.

In the end, I’m totally satisfied with this beer but not necessarily blown away.  I wouldn’t say it’s head and shoulders above a Belle Royale – in fact, I’d say they are pretty close to equal for me.  The Dissident is definitely a bit more powerful and possibly a little more complex, but not necessarily more enjoyable.  However, both are amazing beers and I give them both very high marks, or at least I would if I gave marks.



Oud Beersel – Oude Geuze Vieille

Oude Geuze, or Gueuze, is not a style for everyone.  It is an unsweetened lambic blend.  It tastes old, sour, musty, perhaps a little bitter; very few of its attributes sound pleasant at all.  It does, however, have a loyal following and I am one of those followers.


This is my first time having this particular gueze, brewed by Oud Beersel as per the label.  As usual for this style, it has an alarmingly long shelf life, with a Best Before date of 2029 stamped on the bottle.  This is a 30 year shelf life bottle, indicating it was bottled in 2009.  It comes in a 375mL bottle that not coincidentally resembles a small wine bottle – this style is typically bottled in ex-champagne wares.  If a fine lambic is the champagne of beer (and I would say it is), then oude gueze is its ugly, socially awkward brother.

The cork popped with energy to burn; it could have traveled some distance had I not prevented it from doing so.  The aroma of intensely tart fruit entered the space shortly thereafter, familiar territory that I’ve not experienced for some weeks now.  The sourness makes itself known to your nose well before your tastebuds have the chance to verify.  There is grape, cherry, and lemon elements to the acidic tartness.  There is also some earthy funkiness, as if these tart fruits are in a vintage trunk.  It’s what should be an unpleasant smell, but paradoxically is quite enjoyable.  I love smelling guezes.

Taking a sip, it starts out in familiar oude gueze fashion with tart and sour, unsweetened fruit, leather, hay, woody funkiness.  Usually, despite being unsweetened, the sour funk is balanced by a gentle sweetness towards the finish, but this particular guy finishes without more than a trace of sweetness.  Par for the course, I suppose, given the style.  It also finishes very dry, like a dry white wine.  Only more dry.

This gueze, along with many of the style, is a beer that you can spend your time concentrating on after every sip and continue to be entertained and interested by the complex balance of flavour presented.  The initial bitterness is a little puckering, but beyond that is a landscape of flavours: once bright, but now soaked with wonderful patina from age and chemical breakdown combined.

Not my favourite of the style, but I would buy again – this is good.



Cantillon ‘Gueuze 100% Lambic Bio’



Cantillon is a name with some clout in the Lambic arena, boasting perfect or near-perfect scores on beer sites (for this particular gueuze, 99 at Ratebeer, 94 at Beeradvocate).  Upon looking up those scores, I also noticed a significant number of mediocre reviews, calling the beer overpriced and overhyped (reviews I did not read before shelling out over $8 for a 37.5cl bottle).

Anyway, I owned it already and after a 25km bike ride, I was feeling that this would be a refreshing choice for the evening and a beer well worth documenting.  The bottle is corked then capped, and this particular bottle was filled a little over 18 months ago.


Popping the cork, the smell of apples, slight citrus perhaps, and what to me seems like apricots or peaches, orange fruit.   And, of course, that familiar brett smell.  ’Skunky’, the girlfriend referred to it – but even she didn’t mean it in a negative way (and was quick to take a taste).

The beer pours a bright gold colour, and the first 10cl glass came out crystal clear – the second glass had a slight haze.  The off-white head is fizzy and dissipates within 15-20 seconds… hence getting a good photo of it proved difficult.  Upon sipping, the fizziness dances on your tongue along with some sour apple and mellow, sweet citrus.  The funk approaches after a moment and sticks around through the finish.

This is a refreshing and interesting beer with a nice modest amount of funk, but at the price paid it would not be something I’d stock up on.  I will probably add one or two to the cellar, though, to see how it ages.


Cuvée de Ranke – Belgian Sour Lambic

Cuvée de Ranke is rated very highly by the likes of Beer Advocate (94) and Ratebeer (99).  It is, as you can read from the label in the photo, a decidedly sour ale.  It is much like a Kriek, minus the cherries.  While it is a mixture of Belgian sour ale and Lambic, I’m not certain the difference between the two components.  Lambics come into existence in a rather different way than the typical beer.  It is still the fermentation of yeasts creating the flavour and alcohol content, but Lambics rely on spontaneous wild yeast fermentation which is much more challenging to control than the slower fermentation of brewer’s yeasts in standard ales.  The care required to produce a successful Lambic affects its price – most Lambics and sour ales are particularly expensive, and usually not terribly high in ABV.


Pours a pretty bright orange.  Smell is of citrus and acidic fruit with some funkiness.  Taste is tart fruit, just as much or more sweetness as sourness (a bit of a disappointment for me) but that resulted in a more refreshing beer than I was going for, too.  This would be amazing on a warm day.  I may have to put a couple away for such purposes – this is a beer that will age well.