Monday, July 22, 2013

Vanberg & DeWulf - Lambrucha (Lambic/Kombucha Blend) Review

Brewery: Vanberg & DeWulf (NY)
Style: Lambic / Kombucha / Sour Beer
ABV: 3.5%
Grade: B

Here's my main concern about Vanberg & DeWulf's Lambrucha: where does the "r" come from? Lambrucha is a combination of two ancient beverages — lambic beer and kombucha. Both feature highly unique fermentation methods; both are sour, tart and refreshing. However, neither have an "r" in them. So why is it called Lambrucha? Why not "Lambucha"? It even flows better off the tongue. 

Semantics aside, Lambrucha is a blend that's more than the sum of its parts. Neither the kombucha nor the sour beer dominates, leaving something that's honestly a challenge for me to describe — there are some flavors here that catch me totally off-guard. And that's exciting; I love encountering something new. What am I tasting, though? I find kombucha mostly in the aftertaste: a hint of tea, strong herbs, and that unique kombucha funk — a bright, refreshing character. There's very little of the vinegary acetic acid character you get from some kombuchas (and some sour beers). The sourness is relatively smooth, in fact, with a bite that hits in the back of your mouth as you swallow — more like the bite you get from high levels of carbonation than from mouth-puckering sourness. 

Lambrucha is funky and bold and unusual, with a big lemon character, tart green apple, some oak and earth. The kombucha adds a flowery component, maybe some lavender. But surrounding all that, there's another, bolder flavor that took me a while to deconstruct. Eventually, I think I can place it: mint, or more specifically menthol, with perhaps some ginger. Interesting, though unexpected. Did they use mint tea to make the kombucha? That would be strange. Did I get a bottle that went a bit south? Who knows what the lambic portion of this tasted like before being blended, but a visit to Vanberg & DeWulf's website reveals that my tasting notes are actually pretty much in line with their own description: "a lemony sourness greets the palate but is quickly replaced by even more refreshing flavors of pine, mint, rosemary and cedar." Kombucha isn't typically this herbal, but I can't imagine such flavors came out of the beer portion.

Vanberg & DeWulf's other sour that I've tried, Lambickx, was also quite odd, with a very skunky funky character. This has a bit of that too, as if "mint" and "dank dark basement" were right next to each other on the flavor spectrum. There's certainly no denying that this is complex.

Availability: 750 ml bottles. Rotating availability. Vanberg & DeWulf is based in New York, but creates their beer with lambic blends originating in Belgium.

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