by Harvey Gold on September 3, 2014

So I’ve got this guy…. Matt at Havana House West, in Bath Ohio. I sometimes buy cigars there and have done a piece on a terrific beer/cigar pairing I did at their other location in Warren, Ohio. We’ve also been privileged to post their fun and informative “Vice Picks” series of videos as Videos of the Week (oddly ensconced in our Beer Dinner archives). So when I drop in, we often chat for a bit. Matt, also of eclectic tastes, will turn me on to a an interesting brew from time to time.

Cutting to the chase:

Chase Cutting

Chase Cutting

This time it was a goody, shared with a friend, a 750 ml of Belgian vintage sour cherry Kriek Lambic from the Zenne Valley, imported by Vanberg & Dewulf. Brewed in 2011, bottled in 2013 after being aged in Oak and Chestnut casks, I got to crack open one of 9867 bottles issued, sharing it with a friend.

From the brewer:

Lambics are truly the “wines” of the beer world. Just as wines vary by season, soil, climate, and aging method, lambics (unlike any other type of beer) vary by season, brewery location, barrel size and woodtype, and length of aging.
With wines one talks of “gout du terroir” because the land (terroir) so influences a wine’s flavor. With lambics one must speak of “gout du tunneau” because each cask (tonneau) produces a lambic that matures and tastes different. Thanks to this variation, a lambic’s character comes not only from the base beer made by the brewer but from the casks selected and blended together. And because lambic is lightly sparkling, the flavors and nuances developed through cask aging can be fully tasted and appreciated; not masked by intense carbonation, like in gueuze, which is highly sparking but much less complex….

The beer you hold in your hand reflects the specific conditions present when it was brewed and during its years of aging in cask. Those conditions cannot be replicated and this beer can never be made again. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience…

unnamedTo be fair, there are many beers crafted today, particularly barrel aged ones, that are subject to many of the same variables that the brewers refer to above as being unique to the lambics. But that being said, we take no issue with recognizing the singular and delicate shifts that come in the production of a premium lambic.

This one poured super dark, deep red, almost purplish in the glass, true to the brewer notes, presenting minimal carbonation.

The nose was fruity and musky, which intrigued me, as I’m one of those people who likes stinky cheese, fish, and Belgian sours.
At first sip, the flavor was of very tart cherries, with something “brown” as an undertone. I’m thinking this is the oak and chestnut of the barrel, as “dark and woody” makes far more sense as the source of, what would be viewed in deconstructing most other beer styles, a subtle molasses and/or caramel presence.

I started by sipping, and as I was jotting down a couple notes, my friend suggested, first, that this would be excellent with food, and if you drank some down, without exaggerated respect, as you might any other beer, it offered different flavor notes.
I agree about food pairing with something like this. We had a sour cherry Cerise accompanying a sweet and savory dinner salad at a Founders Beer Dinner and it was wonderful. The Cerise presented more natural sugars, but here, the lack of sweetness and the tartness of  the LambickX– qualities that could cut through any spices– would welcome a food pairing, though I think this truly special brew merits one’s exclusive attention.

I then, as he had done, took a real draw as opposed to respectful tasting sips, and a nice bitter appeared on the middle of the tongue. This decision also either triggered my palate, or at least ran concurrent to the appearance of a sour musk, becoming more reflective of the nose and a significant component of this brew for the rest of the session, absolutely winning the day for me.

Very happy to have had the opportunity to try this, knowing, by their own definition, the next one is likely to be markedly different. Every time an adventure… a $30.00 adventure, that is. Well, you buy a nicer bottle of wine every now and then, yes?

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