Lindemans Lambic Beers
Lindemans Farm Brewery, makers of beer for over 200 years, makes lambic beers, a distinctive Belgian specialty produced only in the Senne River Valley, west of Brussels.
Unlike most beers, which have yeast added for fermentation, lambic beers are fermented with wild, airborne yeast. Lambics are brewed from locally-grown wheat and barley that are milled, mashed, and boiled. Aged hops are added for their preservative qualities, but no yeast is added to the mash. The mixture, known as lambic, is transferred to wide shallow vessels, and the brewery walls are then opened, exposing the brew to the wild native yeasts.
After fermentation the lambic is transferred to casks for one to two years (traditionally referred to as “summers”) of maturation. After aging, the base is treated in different ways to make different types of beer. Some lambics are blended and refermented. Some, known as Faro, are sweetened with dark sugar. Others are flavored with the addition of fresh fruit or fruit juices. These, often known as “dessert” beers, have tangy, true fruit flavor and fragrance. They may be served as an aperitif, can be used as an ingredient in savory or sweet dishes, and are excellent served with cheeses.
Unlike yeasty American beers, lambic beers have forward flavors, are delicate on the palate, and tend to have a lingering finish. Under its cap, a lambic beer has a small cork like those used in wine. Carbonated like champagne, lambic beers have a thin, light foam, and are best served well-chilled in tall, narrow pilsner glasses or champagne flutes.
As you might expect, because lambic beers are produced in Belgium, they complement traditional Belgian foods particularly well: game meats cooked with fruit, leeks, potatoes, mussels, frites (French fries) served with mayonnaise, Brussels sprouts, Belgian endive, and white asparagus.
Not all lambic beers are fruit flavored. The oldest, known as Gueuze (pronounced Guh-za) is tart, yeasty and often described as earthy or sour. Gueuze is made by blending lambic beers of between one and three years of age. When it is bottled, matured lambic is combined with young; the sugar in the young lambic sparks refermentation in the bottle like the secondary fermentation in champagne. Gueuze lambic has a sharp, toasty, pungent aroma and mellows as it ages. Like a great Bordeaux or Barolo wine, it can be cellared for up to thirty years but can show improvement after only a year or two. Also like wine, gueuze is meant to be drunk during the meal, with savory foods.
The rich flavor of Gueuze is a good match for stews and rich sauces. It also goes well with steamed clams, oysters, aromatic mussel and saffron soup, roast lamb and chicken, and the favorite Belgian mixture of chopped roasted cabbage, carrots, and leeks blended with mashed potatoes.
First imported to the United States in 2010, Lindemans Faro is a classic Flemish lambic beer that combines fruitiness with a suggestion of caramel. It developed as a result of the custom of Belgian bartenders adding sugar syrup to unblended lambics to help balance their acidity. To pair it with food, choose dishes that would be complemented by a touch of brown sugar, such as grilled fruit, waffles, creamy cheeses, and chocolate.
Because Belgium’s three official languages are French, Flemish, and German, lambics are often called by their French or Flemish names. Fruit beers include raspberry (Framboise), peach (Peche), black currant (Cassis), black cherry (Kriek), and apple (Pomme).
The heady raspberry fragrance of framboise rises from the bottle even before the beer is poured. Light pink in color, with a strong and intensely fruity flavor, it’s best served in small quantities after a meal or drizzled over ice cream. In Belgium it is sometimes used to cook wild fowl. It’s also excellent as an ingredient in desserts like sorbet or soufflé.
Pale gold and less sweet than other fruity beers, peach lambic makes a nice aperitif. It pairs well with cheeses before or after dinner. Serve with manchego cheese on crackers with membrillo (quince paste) or fig jam, with fresh fruit on the side. It is also a nice complement to hard-to-match spicy foods, such as Indian pakoras (fritters) served with chutney.
Lindemans’ cassis lambic is made with fresh black currants and has a deep reddish color. It has a fruity, refreshing flavor that pairs well with rich sauces.
To make a sauce for roast duck, keep the duck warm on a platter and add about two cups of duck or chicken broth to the pan. Stir to scrape the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan, and return the pan to low heat until the broth is reduced by half. Add a cup of lambic cassis (and a handful of fresh currants or champagne grapes, if you can find them) and cook until reduced to a lightly thickened sauce. Slice the duck, fan out on plates, and serve with the sauce drizzled on top.
Kriek is the Flemish word for black cherry. Kriek lambic is made with sour, dark cherries added to the casks, triggering a fermentation that yields a dry, slightly acid beer with a strong ripe cherry fragrance. Add kriek to beef stews that include fruit, or use it to make marinades and sauces for game such as venison and rabbit. Serve kriek lambic as a dessert beverage, accompanied by cheesecake with cherry sauce. It’s sensational served with rich, dark chocolate cake topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Lindemans’ apple beer is light, tart and dry like a fine cider, but with a deeper earthiness. Pale gold, it has the fragrance of sliced apples. It pairs well with creamy soups and sauces, fondue, and is a refreshing accompaniment to peppery foods. It’s the perfect companion to English and Irish foods like beef or lamb pot pies, Cornish pasties (meat and potato filled pastries), or shepherd’s pie. It also pairs well with cheddar cheese and soda bread with caraway, or with soft aromatic cheeses and thin slices of toasted bread.
First published June 2014