Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lambic Discovery Center (Beersel, BE)

My tour guide for the day and new beer friend Werner

After my tour of Oud Beersel, Werner brought me to the Lambic Discovery Center (local name: Bezoekerscentrum Beersel de Lambiek) and he literally changed shirts to switch jobs from Oud Beersel tour guide to discovery center worker.  It's located outside Brussels in the city of Beersel, the heart of the lambic region.

A theme of the day talking to Werner was that Belgians don't appreciate lambic they way some of us beer geeks might imagine.  Many of us have probably read of the intrusion of macro-lagers into the Belgian beer culture, especially with the young.  So the center is for educating Belgians as much--or more--than foreign tourists.  The local government even supports the center to generate tourism. Very few visitors today, but it's the low season since many Europeans are on holiday elsewhere in late July.  I understand that tours and reservations fill the place other times of the year.

Walking around the spacious center, the life size aging barrels are fun to play in.  Everything is in Dutch but there are English translations, plus the very helpful staff will answer any questions.  I counted ten brewers and blenders of lambic from the local area, each with its own display along the near wall.  Besides the beer samples, the center is a multi-sense experience: smell machine, touch the ingredients, sounds of the brewing process, etc.  Even in a beer centered culture like Belgium, they are working hard to educate.  Evidently, according to Werner, some Belgians past 20-30 km from here don't know lambic beer at all.   

And then, it's to the nicely appointed cafeteria styled tasting room.  Most beers on the list were for three euro. What a price!  First sample is free, which is a rotating draft in a small gueuze glass.  My free sample was Drie Fonteinen. Lambic.  Werner brought out a cheese sampler that was excellent and good to have something to snack on while tasting more local bottles.

Recommended as rare by Werner, I tried De Oude Cam, Oude Geuze, which was highly carbonated with a beautiful fluffy white head of small bubbles.  Hazy orange gold, but was more clear early--I wasn't as careful as I should have been pouring.  Clean, mildly assertive sourness in the nose with some light spice and sweet apple underneath.  Slight sweetness perfectly balances with the sourness, even though the spice of the nose is subdued.  Well worth a try.

An even better bottle was Oude Gueuze Tilquin by Brouwerij Tilquin.  Shimmering orange to gold from the light of the clearing sky from an afternoon rain.  Head dissipates quickly to nothing.  Light sweetness and bready sourness in the nose that's light and follows into the taste.  My tasting notes are thin, but this was my highest rated beer of the stop and I searched out Tilquin later in the trip.

As with all great beer trips, the beer can catch up, especially when I hadn't had anything since my light, hostel breakfast.  Mentioned I was hungry and, because it was not busy, Werner drive me to a local sandwich shop and I ordered a Hollandia:  sliced boiled egg, tomato, cheese, veggies and mayo on crusted bread.  Similar to what I had yesterday across the street from Bosteels, but that one was a bit better though the eccentric owner in Beersel was worth the price of entry alone.  Girardin Kriek 1882 goes with this one well enough; normally, I wouldn't think to have a sandwich with a lambic, but it was originally a working man's beer so it probably makes sense when eating a local.  Werner even mentioned that drinking a refreshing lambic is a great "lawnmower" beer. Like saison, I think we deify these beers too much because of a lack of availability.

The Bezoekerscentrum Beersel de Lambiek is a great experience, especially with the combined tour of Oud Beersel.  Before I found out about the tour, I did some research and it's possible to get to Beersel by train or the De Lijn bus route.  However, there may be some walking or a cab involved.  I didn't test this since I had the convenience of the tour and Werner brought me to the train depot to ride back into Brussels.  Regardless of how a beer geek gets there, the center should be a top priority.  Leave plenty of time.  Had I been able to return, I would have loved to drink deeper into the various local-only offerings.  Such is beer touring, so I won't complain for having a truly amazing start to my week in Brussels.  In the future, I plan to set aside an entire day to return to the center the next time I'm in Belgium.

1 comment:

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