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Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
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Des de Moor

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From the cellar: Hanssens Oudbeitje

Hanssens Oudbeitje

Oudbeitje

ABV: 6%
Origin: Dworp (Beersel), Vlaams-Brabant, Flanders
First published: 5 February 2001

Another review from the  written for the pioneering Oxford  Database (OBBD). I’ve left it uncorrected — so please read it in that historical spirit.

Hanssens, established in 1871, remains — just — as the last of the old-established geuzestekerijen and this , arguably their most famous beer, is still in production. As a stekerij, the company doesn’t brew its own lambics but sources inoculated wort from Boon, Girardin and Lindemans, which it ferments and matures in its own wooden barrels, and in the case of Oudbeitje matures on whole strawberries.

Hanssens, of Dworp, near the classic lambic village of Beersel in the Brussels area, is a proud old house of négociants and geuzestekerijen or gueuze blenders. This is their unusual attempt at a fruit lambic, not with the traditional sour cherries or raspberries but with fresh strawberries. The name is a pun on the Dutch word for strawberries, aardbeien, and literally means something like ‘old varnish’.

I’m not a great fan of fruit beers but this one is something special, and extremely subtly done.  It’s a lively beer, with enough pressure to send the champagne cork with which it was sealed flying across the room on opening, which suggests it is based on the gueuze and achieves its carbonation from the vigorous secondary fermentation.

The smell is musty and hoppy initially, then slightly sharp, and the beer is an intriguing straw in colour with reddish hints, resembling nothing so much as Lucozade. The palate is initially sweet, and then the characteristic rhubarb sourness of the company’s gueuze reveals itself, with hints of wood and citric fruit.

Then, a delightfully delicate and elusive strawberry scent wafts through the mouth, with the tartness as well as the scent of the berries apparent. The strawberry hints persist into the throat, eventually overtaken by late, crisp hop.

What really makes this beer is its subtlety: Hanssens have taken what is already an excellent product and woven in a little extra magic, rather than hiding the noble austerity of lambic behind cloying swathes of fruit syrup as some of the more commercial fruit beer producers in the area have done. Very good indeed.

 

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