I'm heading back to Cantillon this weekend for their public brew day. On my last visit I picked up a couple of beers to take home, one of which was chosen on pure novelty: the grape lambic Saint Lamvinus. Even though the label recommended not opening until the year after purchase, I needed to know whether I had to buy lots more next month, or save my bag space for something else.
Adding fruit to lambic is not a new or exciting thing. Cherries and raspberries are probably the most common, though blueberries and peaches aren't unknown. But this was the first time I'd seen someone decide that grapes -- merlot, to be precise -- could go in instead. An alcoholic beverage made from grapes? That's the kind of radical thinking that always interests me.
It pours a light bright hazy red, sparkly with a girly pink head on the top. I had been hoping for big juicy grapey fruitiness, but this is Cantillon, so what I got was dryyyy. It's sharp and acidic very much in the same way the standard Cantillon Gueuze is. As a result the fruit comes through more as tart redcurrants or raspberries than juicy grapes. However, it's still relatively mild. I've tasted many a beer far more vinous than this. I suppose that shows that grapes are just another fruit -- as suited to making booze as any other.
I don't think I can justify paying the extra €2 or so that Saint Lamvinus costs over Cantillon Gueuze. Perhaps after the recommended year's maturation it'd round out nicely, but I still dunno that I'd bother. I can't see it getting any sweeter, that's for sure.
The other one I'm auditioning is Grand Cru Bruocsella their 3-year-aged (that's right: barrels are in) lambic . They describe this as "a cereal-based wine", even though it's a mere 5% ABV. My usual question for non-fruity Cantillons: how is it different from my beloved standard Cantillon Gueuze? Well, it's sourer. Remember the shock of your first ever sip of Cantillon? It's like that again. The nose is nearly pungent, with even more of a damp moldy funk than usual, and the taste just pierces the sides of your jaw quite disconcertingly. The texture is almost totally flat. I've no doubt that this is an acquired taste, but I think the extra sourness just tips it over into imbalance. I'll stick to the regular, thanks.
And finally just a quick reminder that The Session: Love Lager kicks off on Friday. Go out and have some yellow fizz in my honour. I'll be in Brussels drinking something better.