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Friday, November 18, 2011

Lambic "Terroir?"

I'm sitting in the Drie Fontenein cafe pondering something that came up when I was at Cantillon yesterday. Just had the Oude Geuze here, and of course it's quite different than Cantillon's. (I'll tell you by the end of the post how different it is from Boon's, where I'm due in a half hour.) The thing is, these beers don't differ because of the recipes, but because of the bugs.

has a pronounced lemon rind quality, while Drie Fonteinen's blend (they stopped brewing in 2009 but hope to find a kettle and get back to it) is salty and boasts what I'd call an umami note. These differences come from theaction of the yeasts, who are their own craftsman.

So what do we call this? It's like terroir, but not exactly. (Jean agreed; he said, "It's not exactly like that--terroir Is in the ground, lambics are in the air," and then he gestured to the space around him.)

Shouldn't there be a name for this? Suggestions?


  1. That is like saying terrior is from trucks because they deliver the local malt and hops to the local brewer. The yeast is in the air but comes from the local environment... the land.

  2. Call it Aeroligy or something like that...

  3. Many winemakers, however, use native yeasts that are on the grapeskins, and this yeast action is considered part of the terroir. So it may not be necessary to create a new concept for this.

  4. If you are really aching for another word you could call it atmosphèrroir or l'airroir(it has to be in French, obviously, and I am not being the least bit sarcastic right now). But I agree with Alan, the yeast can be considered a part of the local environment or "terroir"

  5. The whole lambic and geuze manufacturing is about selection.
    The selection of good vats to be bottled and what vats to blend with each other. Also the selection of what vats to keep for filling the next beer in and what vats to burn.
    I can judge if the microbiological surroundings or the selection mentioned above are more important for the house-style of the brewery.
    But the philosophy of Cantillon is evident in the taste.

  6. What you're really honing in on is the bugs, so something like "resident microflora" would be appropriate.

  7. Just to be technical, the lambic in the Oude Geuze that you had was probably sourced from Boon and/or Girardin. I believe that the lambic Armand made at the Drie Fonteinen brewery was only released in the Armand'4 series of beers. Or course there's a lot more to making excellent Geuze than the brewing part as is evident in Armand's beers.

  8. Chris, it's a blend, and they source it from three breweries, including Lindemans (before it's abused by sugar).