Gueuzerie Tilquin – Quetsche Tilquin

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Tilquin’s oude gueuze is a fairly available, mid-priced gueuze that is quite delicious.  Quetsche is a special release from the folks at Gueuzerie Tilquin that adds plums to the mix.  The label is boldly coloured in plum-like dress but the gueuze itself still, well, looks like gueuze.

The smell is still, for the most part, what you’d expect from a standard oude gueuze.  There is the slightest hint of plum in there but it is mostly the acidity and yeast character dominating the nose.  Strong oak notes as well, the plum comes across for me as a hard-to-place background sweetness.

Taking a sip and I am enveloped in a full-bodied gueuze experience, lots of oak and tartness, and natural and gentle sweetness and an acidic, dry finish.  The plums are in the background on the finish for me, and they are tart and dry like under-ripe plums.  You know the ones, where the pit is desert dry.

More than anything I feel like the addition of the plums bolsters the feel of this beer, bringing it well into full bodied territory for the style.  The beer is slightly puckering due to a combination of the sourness and the dryness.

This is a lot less fruit flavoured than I expected and I’m more than just okay with that, I think I’m pretty glad.  This is a superb gueuze!

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3fonteinen Oude Gueuze ‘Golden Blend’

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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.

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Mort Subite – Oude Gueuze

Mort Subite was one of several sour ales I picked up during an exploratory process in late Feb / early March to try to find a suitable substitute for Storm Brewing’s Flanders red ale.   Storm’s ale is richly sour, like sour candy almost, and strong in every sense of the word – it’s also in the 11.0 – 11.5% ABV range if I remember correctly.  It is a toned down version of their 12 year aged Lambic that is out-of-this-world sour, but sadly no longer.   Neither are, or ever were available in bottles.

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I’ve had a number of Flanders reds, sour cherry ales, and gueuzes now and this is the closest I’ve gotten to what I’m looking for.   This has that puckering sour taste from a healthy dose of Brett but with muted sweetness and not a lot of fruit flavour – despite the glowing apricot colour you see above.  It is sweet enough, but no sweeter.

I don’t feel this competes with Storm’s sour personally, but it’s close enough to satisfy my cravings.  I will continue to explore the world of sours, as there are still so many to try.