I broke open the beer vault for Christmas. I had my friends surrounding me and we split some bottles that I had been holding for a while waiting for an opportunity to open them. We sampled a bottle of Bio Gueuze from Cantillon, LambicKX from Vanburg & Dewolf, and finished it off with Armand'4 Oude Geuze Lente. We mixed in a few other sour beers and some not so sour beets just to keep our palates interested.
Armand'4 Oude Geuze Lente: There are not enough positive words to describe the characteristics of this beer. This was far and away the best gueuze that I've had the chance to sample. My amazement began in the restraint of the sour flavors. It was very well balanced, and not too much overall. The sour was checked by the flavors of the beer, and the funk presented itself in a pleasant way without being cheesey, or goaty. The carbonation was quite lively and pleasant. The ladies at the even enjoyed their tastes, and the men agreed that it was well executed. The flavor of the guezue was a light grain/hay accented with a mild sourness and a pronounced lemon flavor and aroma. World Class in every way. Armand, sir, cheers.
Cantillon Bio Gueuze: This beer was moderately sour, but not in an acetic way. The flavors were a more pronounced funk than in the Armand'4 but without the balance. The flavors of the underlying beer are all but buried by the funk. This is a more funky and more sour gueuze. It's still fairly well balanced and tasty. Still fairly young so it wasn't as dry as it could have been. I think it was a 2011.
Vanburg & Dewolf LambicKX: The most acetic one and also the least enjoyable. It was a fine beer but the aggressive sourness of the blend was less appreciated by my friends. It was sour without having the strong presence of bile. The funk was more horse blanket than sour cherry and the beer was enjoyable. Could have benefited from aggressive carbonation.
What I learned:
I appreciated the high carbonation of the Armand'4. I also appreciated balance and restraint. It was nice that this historic style was best when balanced and delicate as opposed to most american styles that are an assault on the senses. The mild funk is different than some american sours. This is possible because of the rare combination of bacteria in the air of the senne valley. These beers are wonderful when executed and prepared in the correct way so that the sourness is expressed in a mild, puckering but balanced way. I look forward to sampling my own year old beers later this week to see if I have any good candidates for blending.