Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cantillon - Classic Geuze 100% Lambic Review

Brewery: Cantillon (BEL)
Style: Gueuze / Sour Beer

ABV: 5.0%
Grade: A

I have one major complaint about Cantillon: even Classic Geuze, the brewery's most common release, is nigh impossible to find. Like ninjas, or extremely rare Pokemon — or an extremely rare ninja Pokemon — bottles appear without warning, and often where least expected. Then it's gone before you can register that it was there at all. The only way to catch yourself a Cantillon, at least here in New York, is to get extremely lucky. I wrote a first draft of this review over a year before publishing it. The bottle of Cantillon I drank and reviewed then was one of the rarest sours I had tried up to that point, and I wanted to experience a few more — particularly Belgian sours — before publishing it. Fast forward a year, and I stumbled upon a few more bottles, ready for second impressions.

To be honest, opening a bottle of Cantillon Classic Geuze isn't necessarily a revelation, either the first time or the second time. If you've had another good pale sour ale before — and there are a bunch out there these days that are much easier to come by — there's nothing exactly surprising about Classic Geuze. You know what to expect, and Cantillon delivers perfectly. As far as lambic/geuze-style beers go, this one is truly "classic" in character.

Classic Geuze 100% Lambic is beautifully dry and crisp, sweetly oaky, with a gentle acidity that just verges into puckering, but finishes soft. The subtle undertones are where 100% Geuze really shines. The acidic bite is cushioned by a bevy of interesting flavors that make this a beer worthy of something from a legendary brewery — never too intense to shed complexity, never too sharp to hide depth. There is a balance here that few American sours have matched, something I've noted while drinking other good Belgians, like the delightful Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze. There's a bright, tart apple-like quality throughout, while some lemon, cherry and tropical fruit come in later. There's a bold oak-barrel character squatting right in the center of this one, almost riding along on top of the acid. It brings with it some subtle vanilla, making for a dynamic shift of flavors from beginning to end.

This hits the important combination of being aggressively packed with flavors, and yet entirely smooth drinking. I suspect that aging would turn this more toward the aggressive side (and I plan to find out, with my second bottle), but its youthful balance makes it extremely drinkable, simultaneously bold and nuanced.

Availability: Ha ha ha. Who knows. Available in both 750 ml and 350 ml format.

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