Traditional Lambic

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Traditional lambic is made in a single brewing session according to a specific set of rules. Ingredients are raw wheat (35%), malted barley (65%), dried hops (three years old) in quantities of 5 grams per liter of beer. The beer is brewed from 45° to 72° C; the wort (liquid containing sugars) is filtered; and the mixture is boiled and hopped, then cooled in the open with contact with the air. This contact with the air allows the wort to be inoculated naturally by wild bacteria and yeasts. The wort is pumped at a temperature of 18°C into oak or chestnut wood barrels. Spontaneous fermentation is active and visible at the start, and slows naturally. The sugars are transformed into alcohol within three years. The finished lambic is a still beer, because during the fermentation, the carbon dioxide escapes through the wooden barrels and as a result does not saturate the beer.  

Pure lambic, if blended with other lambics of different ages, creates a beverage called gueuze. This is a sparkling product, due to the fact that the blend of lambics combined together undergo a second fermentation. The main task for an experienced brewer in this process involves tasting. The brewer may taste ten or more lambics from different barrels in order to select the five or six that will be used to create the 100% lambic gueuze. The bottles of the finished product are closed with a cork, capped with a crown-cork. They will remain horizontally in a cellar for a year on average, in order to allow the sugars to be converted into carbon dioxide, with a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The saturation of the beer is slow and natural.    

The traditional character of the Lambic is described in detail in the handbook “La région du Lambic” by Thierry Delplancq (published in 1995). This handbook describes the various products, their etymology and the first mention, and the geographic location of their production. According to this publication, production of these beers dates back at least to the beginning of the 19th century and even to the 18th in at least one case. The first traces of the lambic recipe date back to 1516. The lambic recipe has remained essentially unchanged since 1559 according to ‘The Lambic Beers” by Peter Van Osta. A decree of the time stipulates that beer must contain 16 cereal parts: 10 of barley and 6 of wheat. Today, quantities of traditional lambic are quite limited, and the traditional production method has greatly declined as compared to the past. Today, only two breweries in Brussels have remained true to the original production.

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Distilled and fermented beverages