|Barrel aging room--my goal for the trip|
to be in a dank lambic cellar. Check.
I heard about the tour of Oud Beersel and the Bezoekerscentrum Beersel de Lambiek (Lambic Discover Center) from a Belgian Beer blog. Making the reservation via email, I think the organizer Werner was surprised that an American had heard of the tour. I love when research pays; too bad I can't share such triumphs with my students.
The tour met on the Rue du Kardinal Mercier, which is a small side street near Centraal Station. The location has a lot of buses from various tour companies; it was much easier to find that I than I had feared.
Because late July is vacation season for Europeans and they tend to be elsewhere, the tour wasn't big enough for a bus. There were supposed to be a couple of other guys on the tour, but after 10 min of waiting for them in the rain, it was just Werner and I heading to Oud Beersel in his car, for which they only charged me 10 Euro instead of the 21.50 on the flyer. I was extremely happy that they didn't cancel it all together. For the second time within a few days, I was getting in a car with a local to drink Belgium beer.
Oud Beersel is open on Saturdays to tour, but mainly to sell beer to the locals for the week. The picture at left of Framboise also shows the bottle shop. The brewer/blender Gert was there working and I chatted with him briefly. My notes say that I had a draft of their Kriek at Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis in 2006, which Gert assured me isn't possible. The brewery reopened in 2003 after being shut down when the last family brewer Henri stopped production. Unrelated to Henri, Gert took over the business and it takes three years to have gueuze old enough to blend, so there was no draft when I supposedly tasted it. Not sure what that entry from Town Hall was then, but now I've had bottles on site to replace it.
Starting up Oud Beersel is reminiscent of the Anchor Brewing story. Gert and Werner are friends from college and heard the brewery was closing. They investigated and worked to bring the three generation brewery back to life. Gert is a brewer, but now the base wort is made at Boon Brewery and he ages and blends Oud Beersel without brewing on site. Werner volunteers in the shop and at the Lambic Discovery Center, and he organizes the tours for both locations.
|A short history of the brewery in the old brewhouse.|
Instead of trying to repeat the information, I'll summarize the philosophy of this 2000 hectoliters/year brewery. Each lambic brewer/blender is aiming for a particular taste that represents their unique contribution. Oud Beersel's goal is to blend their beers to have a light sourness accented by a slight hop bitterness compared with other lambics. While still a quite complex beer, Oud Beersel is more approachable and refreshing compared to a more sour lambic like Cantillion, which I have to admit is too sour for me at times. I really like the Oud Beersel line up, especially the straight lambic, gueze and kriek. While the framboise was my least favorite, it was still quite good. The kriek is much better, in part, because of the high concentration of sour cherries: 400 g/liter. I've noticed on other kriek bottles that the grams per liter of cherries is listed; one I saw said 125 g/liter, so Oud Beersel is really pushing the fruit on this beer.
What I enjoyed most about the visit was the dusty funk and history of the brewery, especially the barrel room. The dank, musty cellar exudes bugs to make great bee--exactly the sort of lambic experience I was hoping for. Later in the week, I'm going to Cantillion and Boon, but happy that Oud Beersel was first on the list. A special thanks to Werner for making my first trip to a lambic brewery memorable.