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Ales of the Riverwards Gueuze Tasting 101

I can’t stand video beer reviews… so, here is a review that allows you to skim through my blather and read whatever you want to know about.  More to come.  I’m happy to review any beer – especially any sour/wild beer you want feedback on.

8/5/14.  8:32 PM

I just popped the top off a bottle of Gueuze from Ed over at Ales of the Riverwards.  I sent Ed a bottle of my Lambic and he was generous enough to send a Gueuze back!  For those of you who don’t know, a Gueuze (or Geuze, pronounced GOO-z) is a blend of Lambic beers.  Generally it is made by blending young and older Lambics (1, 2 and 3 year is typical ), which are then fermented again in the bottle.     Often times this bottle conditioning can take up to an additional 1-3 years!

To top it off, blending is no easy task.  It kind of reminds me of when I learned to cook with spices.  Sure, rosemary can be great with chicken, thyme with steak.  But what about rosemary-basil chicken?  Thyme-fennel steak?  Which spices blend well with which?  It’s not something you can learn from a book, although American Sour Beers does a good job to get a blender started with the right methods.  You just need to get several beers and start mixing.  Don’t expect it to happen overnight, it will take time – and the rough part is – you’re going to need to taste a lot of beer.  More on blending later.  On to Ed’s beer.

Ed’s bottle came to me last week and I put it in the fridge to let the yeast settle out.  I let it warm for ten or fifteen minutes out of the fridge and then gave it a pop.  A nice hiss followed the cap’s removal, indicating good carbonation.  Ed’s bottle was capped – not something typical of a traditional Gueuze due to their high levels of carbonation (3.5+ volumes for you brewers.)   I poured half the beer in my glass, reserving the other half to warm a bit more.

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I’ll get right to it:  this beer is sour.  Not “lets dose PBR with lactic acid” sour, but all around tart.  It reminds me of the first time I had a sour patch kid.  The kid of sour that grabs you and makes you realize several minutes later that you’ve been clenching your cheeks.  It hits the tip of your tongue immediately, then hits the sides of your mouth – and a firework slams into your uvula sending sparks down the back.  While all that is going on you’ve got traditional barnyard brett flavors, some light hay flavors, and an odd residual sweetness.  A very complex blend.

I conversed with Ed while tasting the Gueuze and he told me the 1yr Turbid Mashed Homebrew was his least favorite.  From his blog he says “aroma is very sweet, slight acetone, mild tartness. Lingering big residual sweetness. After taste is not pleasant, this needs more age”.  I couldn’t agree more.  This is the only flavor I found that seems out of place, also showing that you really can’t hide a beer you think isn’t great.  It may add complexity, but you’re not going to hide those kinds of flavors in a beer like this.  Kudos to Ed for giving it a try anyway – I’m sure it does as some complexity, but the sweetness is odd for this style.  

The bottom line is this is a good beer that needs more aging time.  As I mentioned above, this beer is relatively young (3 months) in the bottle (Ed told me I’d just drank bottle #4.)  Over the next couple years, I would expect the sourness to mellow lightly, and for the sweetness to ferment out, raising the carbonation and eliminating that odd sweetness I described earlier – however I wanted to do my best to evaluate it as I would evaluate any Gueuze.  I look forward to bugging Ed in a year or two to see if I can snag another bottle!

Tasting notes are below.

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Appearance:  A nice straw color.  Some haze.  Head fades within a few minutes.

Aroma/Nose – Barnyard aromas, wet hay, nice funky brett character, very typical of what to expect with this style.

Mouthfeel – warm carbonation, low for style but pleasant.

Taste:  Quite sour, with medium Brettanomyces character.  Sourness is complex and dominating, similar to rhubarb with a barnyard/hay flavor.  An oddly placed (somewhat estery?) sweetness is noted in the  middle, perhaps similar to honey.  No hop flavor.  

Drinkability/Overall Impression:  Quite a complex blend.  More body than a typical gueuze, although this could be due to the lower carbonation.  Sourness is quite overpowering which makes it an interesting beer to drink but quite a sipper.   Good barnyard flavors, 

 

1 Comment

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