- Josh Feb 12, 2008 09:03 AM
Last night, I had the privilege of sampling a 1996 Cantillon Kriek. It was really amazing - the years of aging had reduced the aggressive sourness, and allowed the sediment to settle to the point where the beer had an incredible clarity, too. I was a little surprised, in that everything I've ever read about aging beer seems to suggest that only high alcohol brews can withstand long aging times.
Has anyone else experimented with this? Is lambic more suited to aging because of its high acidity?
Yup. Fruit lambics, geuze, and even some flemish sour ales and other experiments/tributes of that ilk (e.g. the Russian River, Pizza Port/Lost Abbey, and Captain Lawrence sour beers that have come out in the past couple of years, to name a few) have been known to age tremendously well, despite their relatively low alcohol content. A Pizza Port Le Woody Brune that I had a few weeks ago, at nearly three years old, was the best incarnation of that beer I've ever had. Wonderfully fruity, balanced, and nuanced with oak, cherry, and light acetic acid. And it poured with great clarity (when other bottles and draft servings have had quite a lot of cherry puree "pulp" floating about), from the same settling that you described with your 1996 Cantillon Kriek. By the way, I've had '96 Cantillon Kriek many times as well (which is funny, because I've never had any vintage '97-'01 Cantillon Krieks-- I guess they intentionally held some back from that year only, or they haven't released the other ones, or there was some "hidden" reserve that someone stumbled upon), and that beer is indeed incredible.
For what it's worth....
Jean Pierre Van Roy (I highly value his opinoin on such things) thinks fruit lambics should not be aged. The fruit flavor will tend to fade pretty quickly. But, the microflora in Lambic is pretty complex. I've had 20 year old Gueze that was really interesting. I know people who've had unblended lambics at 30+ years who swear by it. Traditional lambic is one of those beer where no rules apply.
re: Kevin B
A valued opinion, but doesn't seem to hold up to the OP's experience with the aged Cantillon Kriek--was there still a lot of fruit flavor?
I have a bottle of Cantillon Fou Foune that I am considering laying down for a while to see what happens...the fruit in that was pretty subdued when fresh.
I'll be honest, I'm not really sure. The color was definitely reddish, and there was an aroma of cherry, and a nice tang of cherry, but it's hard to know where the fruit ended and the lambic began. Certainly the fruit wasn't as intense as in a Lindemans (thank god), or Drei Fonteinen. I wouldn't agree that they shouldn't be aged though - this was a beautiful beer.
Having just returned from Belgium, including a visit to Drei Fonteinen and the Night of Great Thirst Lambic Festival, we tasted many aged lambics, geuzes, and even a 20 year old faro and a 15 year old kriek. I personally found the aged ones more agreeable while Russ preferred the sour younger ones. With time the flavors mellowed and softened while hanging onto their fruity flavors. This goes for the color of the 15 year old kriek as well, no longer red but a soft brown. I definitely think throwing a bottle or two in the back of the old beer closet could be worthwhile.
I've aged 1993 and 1997 vintages of Lindeman's Cuvee Rene Gueuze. At about 10 yrs each lambic started to lose flavor big time and so I quickly consumed them. They were stored in my basement but probably not professionally aged. This could have contributed to the deterioration of the flavor.
I did sample a 1974 Rodenbach while in Antwerp a few years back that was ethereal. Not a lambic, but the sourness mellowed significantly over time.