The Lindemans lambics, as popular as they are, are pretty terrible beer. As sweet alco-pop malternatives, sure, they’re fine. But as lambics? A bit too sticky-sweet. Y’see, Lindemans uses artificial sweeteners and fruit juice in their lambic line to sweeten the brews, and also filter and pasteurize them to put the yeast to bed. In the end, this leaves most of the Lindemans line completely drinkable – especially for people that don’t like traditional beer – but a far cry from the sour, funky, wonderful world of traditional Belgian lambics.
I picked up the Cuvée René in hopes that the brewery’s foray into the gueuze family of lambics would be an improvement over the fruit brews. I also wanted to try a new Gueuze, since it is my absolute favorite beer style of late. The Cantillon Classic has been a great introduction to the style, but I’ve been looking for something different and a little bit lighter on the wallet. At under ten bucks for a massive 750ml bottle, the Cuvée René looked worth the risk.
In case you’re not familiar with the gueuze style, I’ll do a quick primer. A gueze is a blend of two different lambics, one “young” (brewed less than a year ago) and one “old” (brewed a few years earlier). Since the young beer still contains plenty of sugars that haven’t been fermented yet, the already funky beer goes through a secondary fermentation after being blended. The end result is a beer that is very tart, very sour, and very dry. If you’re typically a fan of British and American ales and lagers, this style may be practically unrecognizable as a beer. Like stinky cheese or uber-spicy food, gueuzes can be daunting for a first-timer.
The description of the beer, pulled from the US distributor’s website, doesn’t offer too much insight beyond what I just covered; Possibly the oldest beer, Gueuze, or Geuze, (pronounced “GOO-za”) is unseasoned, wild-fermented wheat beer. The brewers blend aged lambic and younger lambic, to taste, and a bottle refermentation occurs after capping. It is highly coveted by gourmands in Belgium who lay it in their cellars like wine.
In the glass, the Cuvée René is a light and effervescent gold, not too far off from a white wine or champagne – that is, apart from the thick white head. The nose is strong, sour citrus, with lemon zest and some Chardonnay vinous notes as well. There’s also plenty of oak to go around, which again brings wine to mind.
Sour, sour and more sour comes to mind on the first sip. The beer isn’t as much of a sensory assault as the Cantillon gueuzes, but that’s not to say the beer isn’t puckeringly tart. The flavor is sour apple and grapefruit citrus, tart and pleasant. The malt backbone is slight and earthy – I want to say hay is the flavor I can’t quite put my finger on. Cuvée René is super-dry, and has a lingering sour candy aftertaste despite the crisp finish.
Despite my writing about the beer being sour, it is definitely the least “in your face” gueuze I’ve had. Where this beer is tarter than your typical Belgian (or any of the Lindemans lambics), it isn’t spell-it-with-a-capital-S SOUR like a lot of spontaneously fermented Belgians. The flavors are all there, but the Cuvée René is a mite slighter than most sour beers. It isn’t the best gueuze I’ve had, but it’s tasty and well-made – which makes it a perfect introduction to the world of sour beers.