Craft Cans

LambicLand

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by Tim Webb, Chris Pollard & Siobhan McGinn

Lambic: to borrow Winston Churchill’s 1939 description of Russia’s foreign policy, it’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

LambicLandWhenever I feature a lambic beer – a gueuze or a kriek – in one of my beer talks, the erstwhile trusting audience becomes somewhat doubtful, and it’s easy to see why.

I’ve just told them that they’re about to drink a beer made from stale hops that stink like cheese, a beer that’s fermented by wild yeasts that drop with the dust from the brewery rafters and then aged in ancient oak casks that are riddled with bacteria. It’s hardly surprising they’re a bit reluctant to take a sip.

Then there’s that initial taste. How on earth do you describe that first lambic experience? I might say it’s wild, it’s earthy or it’s rustic. I could draw comparison with farmhouse cider, or raise the stakes and forge a link with Champagne. But all this barely scratches the surface.

Adding to the intrigue is the peculiar provenance, for this is a style of beer produced only by a tight community of dedicated brewers and blenders found mostly in the countryside to the west of Brussels.

Inevitably, many questions ensue, and, as much I enjoy answering them, from now on I’ll also be recommending that my audience buys a copy of LambicLand.

This is the second edition of the definitive work on the subject of lambic. Like a mini Good Beer Guide, it covers everything you’d want to know: how it’s made, who are the producers, where it can be sampled.

Authors Tim Webb, Chris Pollard and Siobhan McGinn fill the 128 colourful pages with enthusiasm and wit, based on years of love for and experience of the subject (Tim is author of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium and Chris and Siobhan run Podge’s Beer Tours, which specializes in brewery and bar visits in Belgium).

The book is also attractively designed by Dale Tomlinson to do full justice to the team’s entertaining and informative words that cover the history of the style, the rules that govern its production and the most interesting cafés in which to enjoy it, as well as lambic tourism, where to stay in the region and where to pick up bottles to take home for further evaluation and enjoyment.

The road to a full appreciation of lambic is a long and sometimes bumpy one. It begins with that first confusing sip and, if you’re lucky, ends with the connoisseurship of a bizarre, historic and highly idiosyncratic beer style.

To get there, advice and encouragement are essential. LambicLand – subtitled ‘a journey round the most unusual beers in the world’ – makes an excellent travelling companion and mentor.

Second edition (2010)

128-page paperback (Cogan & Mater)

£12.99

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