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Lambic brewers sour on each other

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The word’s out that 3 Fonteinen and Girardin will quit the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL), the non-profit that groups the gueuze producers in the Payottenland and the Valley of the Senne.

For beer lovers, this means that the two will not take part in the annual Toer de Geuze, which next takes place on 4-5th May, 2019. Belgian Beer & Food reported the split was confirmed by Frank Boon, the current chair of  the organisation. The decision will be confirmed at HORAL’s next general assembly in January, he is quoted as stating.

The first Toer de Geuze was organised on 19th October 1997, when Boon, De Cam, De Troch, 3 Fonteinen, Lindemans and Timmermans opened their doors for the public. Since then the open brewery day of the Payottenland and the Valley of the Senne has become a biannual event when the doors open for Lambic lovers.

HORAL works to maintain current EU protections on traditional lambic  beers since the Traditionally Specialty Guaranteed label was assigned to these beers in 1997. And this is where the rub lies, or rather the sour feeling between claims of who should be considered a true lambic/gueuze brewer.

For example, Cantillon has famously declined to join the organisation with the brewer’s Jean Van Roy reportedly stating “some lambic breweries who don’t produce traditional lambic or they produce a few; 1% or less than 1% of the global production” and that “Cantillon don’t [sic] want simply to sit at the same table [as] those breweries.” 

In 2017 US brewer Jester King got into a clash with HORAL in 2017 when ‘s it labelled its 2016 Spon beer as “Méthode Gueuze”.  HORAL shamed itself here by opposing the labelling, when in fact Jester King was showing respect for the Belgians. Don’t forget that those who make champagne the traditional way but not in the designated geographical areas in Champagne, France must label their sparkling wines ‘méthode champenoise‘!

As reported by Good Beer Hunting,  Jester King’s founder Jeffrey Stuffings stated in a blog post that the company had “struggled mightily” with what to call it. “We knew we would not claim that it was an authentic ‘Lambic’ or ‘Gueuze,’” he wrote. “Our beer was made in Texas. Lambic and Gueuze come from Brussels and the Pajottenland. End of story.”

Here again Cantillon’s Van Roy played the jester again and is reportedly working with Stuffings and other producers to establish “Méthode Gueuze” as a certification mark for other brewers to use to “verify that a certain set of standards and criteria are met during the making of” such beers outside of Zenne Valley, stated Good Beer Hunting.

In response to HORAL’s proposal that ‘Méthode Traditionelle’ be used instead, Stuffings in a letter to HORAL stated: “I do believe, however, that Méthode Gueuze actually serves to help and protect your business,” he writes. “Myself and my peers have a desire for the terms Lambic and G(u)euze to still mean something ten years from now and beyond, as obviously you do too…My fear is that the ship is leaving or has left the dock when it comes to preventing abuse, confusion, and a muddled picture of what Lambic and G(u)euze really are.”

The EU designation, not really strong on the ‘where’

The EU has granted “lambic-derived” products Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) protection in 1992, the lowest form of protection for food and agricultural products.  TSG protects the traditional aspects such as the way the product is made or its composition, without the product having to be linked to a specific geographical area. But at least the designation serves to protect the brand or name of a product against falsification and misuse.

The registered products are: Lambic, Geuze-Lambiek and Geuze; Kriek, Kriekenlambiek, Raspberry lamella and Fruit lamella; Faro; Oude Geuze, Old Geuze-Lambiek and Oude Lambiek; Oude Kriek, Oude Kriekenlambiek, Oude Raspzenlambiek and Oude Fruit-Lambiek.

A commentator on RateBeer, evifunk, put together a summary of the requirements for each of the four types as found officially on DOOR, the European Commission’s database for the classification.

evifunk states:

“It’s interesting to note what isn’t required more than what is.
-no requirement for a “coolship” vessel.
-no requirement for lambic to be brewed in Brussels, or even Belgium.
-nothing against using sugar to sweeten the beer.
-nothing against pasteurization.
-nothing requiring “gueuze” blend to be a weighted average age of 1 year. You could put a drop of 3 year old barrel aged lambic into 3 month old SS tank fermented lambic and its technically geuze. (“Oude” geuze requires weighted age)
-nothing requiring lambic be fermented and aged in oak.
-strikingly no requirement to use 30% unmalted wheat nor turbid mash…

So while these terms are “protected” by the EU, you can see where the InBev like producers gutted the restrictions.”

Here are his links to DOOR and the summary of what can be classified as:

Lambic, Gueuze-Lambic, Gueuze / Lambiek, Geuze-Lambiek, Geuze

  1. Spontaneous Fermentation – “obtained by the fermentation of a boiled wort after natural inocu­lation from the ambient air during cooling“
  2. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and/or Lambicus is a determining microbial component
  3. Minimum of 12.7 Plato
  4. Maximum 3.8 pH
  5. Maximum color 25 EBC
  6. Maximum bitterness 20 BU
  7. Gueuze is a blend of Lambics in which the oldest component has been aged in wooden barrels for at least three years.

Vieille Gueuze, Vieille Gueuze-Lambic, Vieux Lambic / Oude Geuze, Oude Geuze-Lambiek, Oude Lambiek

  1. Spontaneous Fermentation – “obtained by the fermentation of a boiled wort after natural inocu­lation from the ambient air during cooling“
  2. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and/or Lambicus is a determining microbial component
  3. Minimum of 12.7 Plato
  4. Maximum 3.8 pH
  5. Maximum color 25 EBC
  6. Maximum bitterness 20 BU
  7. Oude Geuze is a blend of Lambics in which the oldest component has been aged in wooden barrels for at least three years.
  8. Oude Geuze has a weighted average age of at least 1 year.
  9. Oude Geuze has undergone secondary fermentation and is conditioned on the sediment.
  10. Maximum degree of isoamyl acetate of 0.5 ppm after 6 months of ageing in the bottle.
  11. Minimum ethyl acetate of 50 ppm
  12. Volatile acidity of minimum 10 meq.
  13. NaOH and total acidity minimum of 75 meq

Kriek, Kriek-Lambic, Framboise-Lambic, Fruit-Lambic / Kriek, Kriekenlambiek, Frambozenlambiek, Vruchtenlambiek

  1. Spontaneous Fermentation – “obtained by the fermentation of a boiled wort after natural inocu­lation from the ambient air during cooling“
  2. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and/or Lambicus is a determining microbial component
  3. Minimum of 12.7 Plato
  4. Maximum 3.8 pH
  5. Maximum bitterness 20 BU
  6. Kriek is a blend of Lambic with a weighted average age of at least 1 year.
  7. The oldest component of kriek must have been aged in wooden barrels for at least 1 year.
  8. Kriek is made by adding cherries, cherry juice, or cherry juice concentrate.
  9. Fruit must contribute 10%-25% by weight.  (Peach can be 30%)

Vieille Kriek, Vieille Kriek-Lambic, Vieille Framboise-Lambic, Vieux fruit-Lambic / Oude Kriek, Oude Kriekenlambiek, Oude Frambozenlambiek, Oude Fruit-lambiek

  1. Spontaneous Fermentation – “obtained by the fermentation of a boiled wort after natural inocu­lation from the ambient air during cooling“
  2. Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and/or Lambicus is a determining microbial component
  3. Minimum of 12.7 Plato
  4. Maximum 3.8 pH
  5. Maximum bitterness 20 BU
  6. Kriek is a blend of Lambic with a weighted average age of at least 1 year.
  7. The oldest component of kriek must have been aged in wooden barrels for at least 1 year.
  8. Kriek is made by adding cherries, cherry juice, or cherry juice concentrate.
  9. Fruit must contribute 10%-25% by weight.  (Peach can be 30%)
  1. Oude Kriek has undergone secondary fermentation and is conditioned on the sediment.
  2. Maximum degree of isoamyl acetate of 0.5 ppm after 6 months of ageing in the bottle.
  3. Minimum ethyl acetate of 50 ppm
  4. Volatile acidity of minimum 10 meq.
  5. NaOH and total acidity minimum of 75 meq.

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