De Cam: Oude Lambiek (Belgium: Unblended Lambic: 5% ABV)
Visual: Pale yellow to lemon juice. Loose, real ale like large bubbled dash of a head.
Nose: Dry. Fresh crusty bread. Sulphur and hard boiled eggs. Smoke.
Body: Sulphur. Hard boiled eggs. Still. Oats. Light dried apricot sweetness. Light vanilla. White grapes. Dry lemon. Nutty. Dry Madeira. Palma violets.
Finish: Dried oak. Eggs. Sulphur. Dry raisins and Madeira. Tannins.
Conclusion: As I started sipping this I thought – Am I a philistine? On this matter and in general. This is a very well reputed lambic, and, while I am not going to insult it, on first sip I really couldn’t see why the massive raving about it. Could be a hype issue. Once you have your expectations way up for a beer, it is hard for anything to live up to that. Well, let’s just take a look at this again, as just another beer, not as a hyped up lambic, and maybe I will get a better handle on it.
Ok, well chilled down it is a bit empty – odd as often lambics work very well cool, but without the liveliness of a geuze this doesn’t seem to able to trade as much on the dryness, tartness or sparkling mouthfeel. Because of this it needs to do more with the subtle flavours, which it doesn’t manage initially – just an empty kind of eggy and sulphur character. It still has quote a dry base, but not with that teeth tingling character I get with geuze – just around equivalent to a good APA level kind of dry.
So, let’s let it warm up a bit – now the flavours develop. A more nutty, dry Madeira touched undertones come out. Ok now I can see what people like about this a bit more. As mentioned, oft lambics work well chilled – this seems to need a bit more heat than most – still cool, but not fully chilled.
So, now with light fresh notes – not many but there. It actually reminds me a bit of aged sake in a way. Both share the similar dry Madeira notes and dark fruit touched character along with a few lighter fresher notes. Though this differs in that it has a slight, but distinct, sulphur character and a real ale like beer texture backing it up.
So, as mentioned I am starting to get the love for this beer. It isn’t a must have for me, but it is very nice – like the negative exposure of a standard lambic; Still instead of fizzing like a geuze, dark fruit notes instead of fresh ones, but still a lambic. Still drinking it now, and it gains more as it warms more – more nutty, more tannins and more subtle dried dark fruit notes. Ok, not quite up to the hype, but each time I let it warm a bit more I have come to appreciate it more as more Madeira base and rich complexity comes out. I can take my time happily with this one.
Background: I am not 100% sure this is an unblended lambic as it is generally listed as – the name makes me think it is – blended lambics tend to be called Geuze in the name. Also the fact it is still and not fizzy unlike most geuze. However Belgian Experts website says “The Lambics used to make this unparalleled blend come from Girardin, Drie Fonteinen, Boon and Lindemans, while the casks used to age the beer come from Pilsner Urquell.”. I think I can square this circle by maybe a) There are two different beers by this name? b) One of the sources is wrong? or c) Possibly the lambics are blended then aged in oak at De Cam and it only counts as geuze if they are blended after oak ageing? I do not know – if anyone has more information please let me know in the comments. Any which way, something unusual grabbed from Independent Spirit. Drank while listening to Anthrax – Amongst the living. Yes again. I am excited that I will hopefully see them live next year.