April 20, 2012

Jean-Xavier Guinard's book "Lambic"

Jean-Xavier Guinard's book "Lambic":

Long since out of print, however is still regarded as the definitive text on Lambic.  Currently it is very expensive to get a copy of this book, but I was lucky enough to snag a copy off of eBay for $3 from a seller who didn't know what he had.

I've just started reading this book and I wanted to type out the "Etymology of Terms" section for you all.
According to a writer from the Tirailleur newspaper in 1883, the term lambic has its origin in the peasants' belief that lambic, being very harsh to the palate, was a distilled beverage.  The peasants would often call it the alambic, in reference to the distilling apparatus.  Belgian historian Godefroid Kurth agrees that lambic derives from alambic, but according to him, alambic was the old name for the mashing vessel used to brew lambic beer.  The dictionary of the Academy of Gastronomy suggests that the etymology of the term lambic is found in the Latin verb lambere meaning to sip. It could also be that lambic, which often appears as lambiek, is deribed from the village of Lembeek in Payottenland.
As for the term faro, it comes from the Spanish words farro meaning barley wine, a wine from Portugal, or a lighthouse.  Indeed, Belgian rumor has it that after drinking a few pints of faro, people would become very enlightening.  Faro was the main drink in Belgium in the nineteenth century.  In 1855, a two-cent increase in the price of a glass of faro almost caused a riot among "Brusseleers" for whom the daily mug of faro was a necessity.  A group of actors from famous cabarets even staged a play to denounce the price hike.
The gueuze appellation was born in Lembecq, a small town outside of Brussels, which was very fortunate not to have to pay any excise tax on the brews it produced until 1860.  In 1870, the mayor of Lembecq, who owned a brewery, hired an engineer by the name of Cayaerts.  Together, they decided to apply the methode Champenoise to referment lambic beer in a bottle.  Gueuze was born.  This new invention was called "lambic from the gueux" because the liberal ideas of the mayor were those of the political party of the gueux.  The lambic of gueux soon became known as gueuze.  According to the Dutch writer Anton Van Duinkerken, the term gueuze more simply originated during the War of the Gueux in the sixteenth century.

April 4, 2012

The "American Lambic"

The beer I make follows the traditional lambic process in every way possible without actually being located in Belgium. As Americans we want to be able to classify every beer into a style category. If one was to try classifying my beer, they may find the lambic category a more accurate title than the generic "AWA".

Some view lambic as more than a word to describe a style, but a hallowed Belgian product. Why it is so holy, and how it became sanctified, I do not understand. Many claim terroir, the history, or a unique microflora, but I have found those claims have little base in reality or the modern production of lambic within Belgium.

Part of me wants to believe that lambic is a sacred term. I don't like that Lindemans/Timmermans/Mort Subite uses it on their pasteurized, back-sweetened, fruit syrup, ersatz "lambic". I wouldn't categorize that stuff as lambic, but that is because I don't like their production method for those beers. I'm disappointed that there hasn't been more done to protect the term within Belgium.

In an attempt to half avoid the issue, half to show respect, I try not to use the term "lambic". I will use the term "lambic-style" or "American Lambic" when asked to classify the beer, because that is how I would classify it. Its much easier than saying "Spontaneously fermented ale brewed in Wisconsin following the traditional methods of Belgian lambic brewers".

Call it what you want. Classify it as you see fit. I don't really care as long as you enjoy it and understand how it was made.

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