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The (other) Champagne of Beers

June 24, 2009

Nobody is going to mistake Cantillon’s Classic Geueze for High Life.  This artisanal, traditionally made brew has a grain bill of mostly barley with a small proportion of wheat – which is fermented in the upper-story of the Cantillon brewery in Brussels. The native yeasts there bring the funk and unique character to the brew, which is then blended with 2- and 3-year old aged Geuezes to create the ‘Classic’ blend. This example was dated May 28, 2008 – so it is still young, Geueze-wise.

I poured it a little too chilled – and it was unforgiving until it came back down to 45-50ish degrees. Fresh apricots and a bretty dankness arose from the glass – peculiar to itself, but familiar in feel to some of the natural wines  that bring wet straw and saddle-leather. The palate was a twisting torquing work-over – bright, high-toned, bracing and cutting. The bubbles were expansive, active and fresh.

This isn’t a patio pounder, although it was refreshing and light – it needs food to really show off. I’d go with either shellfish or washed-rind cheeses – with the acidity adding brightness and color, or contrasting with the fat. Cantillon really pushes the natural angle – expressing what I’d call  the beer equivilant of the terroir concept. Again, this is not for everyone – lively acidity isn’t usually on a beer drinker’s radar – but it works.

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