Brouwerij Boon - 2009 Geuze Mariage Parfait
Serving Temperature:48-55° F
Suggested Glassware:Flute, Stange, Snifter or Tulip
This beer was brewed and barreled back in 2009, bottled in late 2012/early 2013. So before you even receive it, Boon’s Geuze Mariage Parfait has been aging for over 3 years. Nice! And what a beer it is—the perfect blend of old world brewing via 100% spontaneous fermentation and timing (hence the name “Mariage Parfait”, which means, in French, “perfect marriage” or “perfect wedding”). Pours a deep straw color, very slightly hazy but mostly clear—poured carefully to leave sediment in the bottle and keep the beer clear—topped with a nearly white-colored head. Very active carbonation jets are visible throughout the brew, which recharges what begins as a relatively small head on initial pour, keeping it permanently in place and making the aroma ever-effervescent. On the nose, tartness is obvious—look for notes of lemon, citrus peel zest, sour currants (gooseberry), elderberry, oak and faint hints of earl grey tea. When freshly uncorked and poured on the cooler side of the suggested serving temperature, notes of dust and ozone are prevalent (oxidation character). Of course, notes of Granny Smith apples can’t be denied, and as it warms, just a touch of freshly peeled, unripe bananas emerge (perhaps even young plantains). We picked up some wonderfully herbal hoppiness, notes of lemongrass, and white grape must. Notably, there’s a faint but well-rooted earthy, basement-y mustiness and a diminutive brackish scent. On the palate, the beer lives up to the expectations set by the nose—quite tart, but not wincingly so. Geuze (or Gueuze—either is acceptable) can be abusively acidic, but the age on this beer has allowed the beer to mellow wonderfully. Don’t get us wrong, there’s a profound tartness and robust acidity, but it’s a layered, multidimensional effect. Bitter citrus peel (lemon, lime, grapefruit) sit toward the back and sides of the tongue, while a subtle surge of the salivary glands lets us know we’ve got the real deal here. Ozone character really speaks to us when cool, but dissipates with temperature, where just a soupçon of old leather sneaks in (think of a very old, leather-bound book). The beer has a somewhat floral character and is replete with grassiness and heaps of oak. Sour/green apples are prominent, as are notes of lemon, but also look for notes of tart apricots and perhaps a touch of prune juice. A faint brine character is also detected, but it is way in the back, eclipsed by earthy, grassy, musty notes. It’s lightly funky (but more musty). If you rouse the sediment and get it decanted into your glass, you can expect more apple cider and apple cider vinegar notes to present, but we don’t recommend this—instead, we believe it’s best to pour carefully and leave the last inch or so in the bottle (pour under a strong light to monitor as the beer disembogues and stop before the haze pours in). Finishes exceptionally dry (reminiscent of a dry white wine, with the oakiness of a chardonnay) and begging for another sip.
2009 Geuze Mariage Parfait: quite a remarkable beer. Geuze is not that easy to come by domestically, and very old oak-aged geuze is practically unheard of in the US. So we love being able to bring this vintage beer to you. But geuze is a style of beer that can become just about as “vintage” as you can get—this is a style that, when kept properly (at cellar temperatures or slightly below), can easily hold up for over 20 years.
We were lucky enough to sample the 2007 vintage (but couldn’t get enough of it to share with our members—sorry!) and on those 2007 vintage bottles was printed “best before 2030”, so we’re thinking (even though we haven’t seen the official bottle labels at the time that we’re writing the 2009 tasting notes) that the lifespan on the 2009 is at least until 2032, or, about 19 years from now. So, if you were looking to get that ultimate gem of cellar-able beer, this is the one. If you can, stock up and check in on a bottle every 5-10 years between now and 2032+. Think about it: if you’ve just recently had a child (or a grandchild), about 18 years from now, they’ll be graduating high school. Sounds like a good time to crack a bottle! Or, if you’ve got a kid (or grandkid) who recently started kindergarten, by the time they graduate from college, this beer will just be nearing the end of its “best before” period. Not a bad time to share a beer with the young man or woman and celebrate their entry into the real world! And hey, if we’re still lucky enough to be running The Rare Beer Club at any of these points—be they 5, 10, 15 or 20 years down the road—please send us your thoughts and tasting notes. We look forward to it!
There’s something about lambic…
Actually, there are a whole bunch of things about lambic. Part of it’s the unknown: the fact that traditional lambic production involves spontaneous fermentation, with local wild yeasts and bacteria coaxed from the passing air. (It can often seem a bit like sorcery.) Part of it’s the patience required: those yeasts and bacteria frequently take their good sweet time fermenting, with blended offerings like geuze incorporating barrels of lambic that can be three or more years in the making. Part of it’s the blending: that learned art of tasting and combining older and newer barrels of lambic, of creating something tastier than the sum of its parts. And part of it’s the long-awaited result: sour, funky, refreshingly complex beer that’s unlike any other.
We’re excited to share with our members this month an especially rare example hailing from the heart of lambic country. Frank Boon and his brewery, along with the folks of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen, are often regarded as saviors of this finicky, time-intense means of beer production. As hard as it may be to believe while actually drinking traditionally made lambic, for many years it was on a slow and spiraling departure from this world, both from brewery closures and from market pressures to artificially sweeten the final product. Today, it’s instead a new dawn for Belgian lambic producers, with Boon helping to lead the effort.
Brouwerij Boon finds it distant roots as a brewery extending back to 1680, as a farm-brewery and distillery in Lembeek, a small village about thirty minutes southwest of Brussels. The tax situation at the time was encouraging to brewers and distillers alike, and there remains debate as to whether the term lambic originated from the village name itself or from the “alembic,” a distillation device preceding the pot still. Either way, Lembeek still maintains its close ties intertwined with fermentation. Frank Boon purchased the brewery in 1975, and his location currently sits near the shore of the River Senne: a nexus of wooden barrels and cherry trees.
Today Boon creates various different lambics, including geuzes, krieks (made with cherries), framboise (with raspberries), and faro (with spices and candy sugar). Some are sweeter, while others are bone dry. All of them can take some significant effort to track down. At the tippy-top of their authenticity-minded lambic production is one of our selections this month: 2009 Geuze Mariage Parfait. Mariage Parfait is French for “perfect marriage,” and we hope you’ll agree that they couldn’t have picked a more appropriate name. Members of The Rare Beer Club are the first lucky few in the U.S. to to get their hands on the excellent 2009 vintage, and there will only be spotty distribution of a handful of cases throughout the rest of the country later this year, so stock up now while you can.
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