Oud Beersel - Oude Geuze Vieille 2014
Serving Temperature:46–54° F
Suggested Glassware:Lambic Tumbler, Flute, or Tulip Glass
Oud Beersel’s 2014 Oude Geuze is a spontaneously fermented, traditional lambic beer that’s brewed with just water, barley malt, wheat, and hops. This blended lambic combines lambic beers from different years aged in wooden barrels, and blends younger and older lambics to create an exceptionally balanced Oude Geuze release. The 2014 vintage is drinking perfectly right now, with an easy-drinking poise that remains hugely expressive at the same time.
This pours a bright golden color with an amber tinge, with the pours getting slightly darker as one proceeds through the bottle. Per notes above: we’d suggest pouring this gently for the best results; rousing the yeast in later pours made them a little less assertive for us. Off-white foam with modest retention. Hugely generous and smooth aromatics from the start, leading with bold lemony citruses and subtle funk, and a very light apparent salinity. Mouthwatering, fruity throughout, with a very subtle impact of herbaceous hops still present. This shows all the hallmarks of exceptional geuze, with hugely complex fermentation and no rough edges.
There’s a firm impact of lemony acidity and tartness from the start, offering that expected, bold impact of geuze—but this is a nicely aged example that’s just so easy to dig into with that first sip. Still: all the citrusy, salty, funky complexity we’d hoped for. This beer feels like the kind of lambic that an entire village could get into, rather than something for folks who are looking for that jaw-clenching impact of some of the more aggressive lambics. Vibrant carbonation underpins everything, providing an effervescent lift. The spontaneous ferment gives this layers of citrus and complex acidities to unpack, while subtle notes of vanilla and almond from the time spent in wood add additional layers. This is expressive lambic that’s aged beautifully: easy drinking, so endlessly satisfying. For us, it’s geuze at its very best.
Bottle gives a best-before date of 2034. This beer will probably outlast us all. The brewery suggests pairing with chicory or brussel sprouts. No clue about chicory—so we’ll add the traditional pairing of mussels and frites, plus other rich seafood like lobster or scallops.
The historical Oud Beersel, located about six miles from the city center of Brussels, is one of the last remaining authentic lambic breweries in Belgium. The brewery first started way back in 1882, passing through multiple family generations, before almost meeting its end in 2002. Today, the brewery is one of very few to still be employing spontaneous fermentation in this classic brewing region—maturing lambic for up to three years in barrels—which can in turn be blended to go into the brewery’s classic Oude Geuze. For the brewery’s Oude Kriek, sour cherries go through a primary fermentation in lambic, as well as refermentation in the bottle. The local microflora in the air gives these beers their unique fermentation characteristics, and, quite simply, the lambics and geuzes of Belgium are some of the most expressive, out-there, delicious beers on the planet. We’re very grateful to have this lambic producer still around.
Henri Vandervelden was a seasonal worker for the De Kroon brewery, with brewing usually taking place between October and April, while his summers and autumns had him buying and picking fruit to prepare for sale. Henri eventually decided to combine these efforts and begin his own brewery. Purchasing land on Kasteelstraat in Beersel and hiring brickmakers from Flanders, the Vandervelden facility—including a house, brewery, and cart house—was finished around 1882, later to be renamed Oud Beersel.
The eldest of Henri’s five sons, Egidius, would eventually take the helm as brewer, before passing on the brewery to his own son, Henri Vandervelden II (named after his brewery-founding grandfather), who would become the third generation brewmaster of Oud Beersel. The location’s farm and cart house were swapped out for a Bierhuis and a spendy Mortier organ in the 1930s, and Egidius’ daughter Marie-Thérèse Vandervelden ran the Bierhuis until 1988, when her son Danny Draps took over until the end of 2002. The brewery had survived many challenges over the years—including World War II rationing, when use of wheat was forbidden; an otherwise essential ingredient in lambic, Oud Beersel substituted ground and kilned sugar beets and made a lower-alcoholic beer. But in 2002, the café and Mortier organ were sold, the former being converted into a flower shop. And all of the remaining beer was acquired by the Boon brewery and sold by 3 Fonteinen. Lacking any clear line of succession within the family, the traditionally produced beers of Oud Beersel appeared gone for good.
Henri Vandervelden II made one last effort in early 2003 to find a buyer for their brewery, which had now been run by four generations of Vanderveldens. And he found the right fit with Gert Christiaens. Gert Christianens had been in the traditional beer bar Le Zageman in central Brussels, where he often went to drink his favorite beer with friends—Oud Beersel’s Oude Geuze—when he found out that the brewery had recently closed. He decided that this would not stand, and worked with Henri to prepare plans to restart the brewery. The period of transition took almost three years, as Gert collected the malting, brewing, and fermenting knowledge and experience that would be needed for such a vast undertaking, restarting one of the last lambic producers. Henri brewed with him during this period—gradually passing on the brewing knowledge the Vanderveldens had accumulated over the past century-plus.
Today, Gert and his family manage Oud Beersel and their production of traditional lambic beers—combining respect for the brewery’s heritage with modern technology and ongoing research projects into spontaneous fermentation. Their current Oude Geuze is an especially vibrant take on this style of spontaneously fermented, blended lambic—particularly the 2014 vintage we’ve picked out to feature this month. And Oud Beersel continues to innovate with new products like their patented, pressure-resistant, bag-in-box lambic packaging (typically in three-liter sizes, which sounds like something we need, frankly). We’re very glad this brewery is still around—and we think their 2014 Oude Geuze will make you feel the same way.
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