The world is about to lose an underappreciated treasure. Belgium's Oud Beersel brewery is closing its doors, which means the number of authentic lambic producers has now dropped to 11. To put it into perspective, there were once more than 200 such producers in Brussels alone.
Lambic is a type of beer that requires craftsmanship and time to produce. Made from a blend of raw wheat and malted barley, traditional lambic is made by blending old lambic that has been aged for three years in wooden casks (some are aged for more than 100 years) with young lambic. To that, some producers will add fruit. The residual sugar of the young lambic feeds the wild yeast in the old lambic and the resulting in-bottle fermentation produces a high degree of carbonation.
With such a time- and labor-intensive process, it's not surprising that traditional lambic production is on the wane. Hopefully more people will discover this style-as opposed to the sweet and fruity neo-lambics sold at Whole Foods and BevMo-and it will become popular again, as has happened with artisan bread, chocolate and cheese.
Producer: Oud Beersel
Variety: Oude Geuze Vieille
Region: Halle (Belgium)
Price: $4.95 at Holiday Wine Cellar, 302 W. Mission Ave., Escondido, 619-696-9463Brewed by the Vandervelden family since 1882, this beer has a cloudy bronze color with a voluminous head. The flavor is complex: sour and acidic, with a slight sweetness, a malty finish, prickly carbonation and rich mouthfeel. Pairs well with pungent cheese or sausage, but it's also damn fine all by itself-an excellent refreshment on warm days. Holiday Wine Cellar apparently has a good quantity on hand, so get it while you still can. It's worth the drive to Escondido.