Origin: Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle, Vlaams-Brabant, Vlaanderen
Date: 8 September 2000
Another review from the archive written for the pioneering Oxford Bottled Beer Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit. Thankfully this world classic is still very much around, and you can find a more recent review of it for my 2012 Top Tastings here.
Perhaps not as famous as other artisanal lambic houses like Boon and Cantillon, the old established Girardin brewery in St-Ulriks-Kapelle is certainly among the first division, and it was good to see it represented at 2000’s Catford Beer Festival. The black label identifies its most traditional gueuze, which is unfiltered and even uncentrifuged and consequently pours a very cloudy straw colour from its champagne-style bottle.
There is some straw on the aroma too, and also a very acidic appley, rough cider whiff. Despite the pungent nose the beer itself is very fine, slightly kinder than the uncompromising Cantillon but still startlingly dry and acidic. The palate is very complex with all sorts of aromatic flavours: hay, apples, some pineapple and a lemon-juice sourness. The beer lingers long at the finish, rich with grapefruit and sour apple flavours.
This is certainly one of the best examples of the style I’ve tasted, with just the right balance of stimulating acidity, a quality it shares with good fino sherry. If you ever meet a wine buff who scoffs at the idea of beer being sophisticated, this might just be the bottle to convince them otherwise.