Before "Brunch with Gueuze," three things.
- 1. Gueuze (pronounced almost like "grr zəh") is
a blend of two or more lambics of different ages [one and three-year-old], with the younger beer providing the sugars needed for refermentation [sparkle] in the bottle. [...] The traditional gueuze flavor is dry, sharp, and earthy, close to that of of unblended lambic, but bottle-conditioning and the resulting carbonation give it perhaps even greater complexity and finesse. 1
- 2. Lambic is a type of beer brewed
in the Pajottenland region of Belgium, southwest of Brussels and in Brussels itself. Unlike conventional beers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer's yeasts, lambic is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Zenne [River] valley. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste. [...] After the fermentation process starts, the lambic is siphoned into old port or sherry barrels (of chestnut or oak) from Portugal or Spain (some of the brewers prefer used wine barrels.) The lambic is left to ferment and mature for one to two or even three years. It forms a "velo de flor" of yeast that gives some protection from oxidation, in a similar way to sherry; but the barrels are not topped up. 2
- 3. A Gueuzestekerij, or "gueuze tapper," is a company that —rather that brewing its own beer— purchases stocks of lambic, and matures those in barrels, blending and bottling when ready, similar to the traditional manner of French négociants with wine in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Hanssens Artisanaal is the oldest extant Gueuzestekerij in Belgium, sitting in an "old farm in the now urban village of Dworp, south of Brussels." 3
Now, on to that brunch, home-cooked, several thousand miles west of Brussels, in the mid-Atlantic U.S.A.
It was a sunlit Sunday morning in August, remarkable for its unclammy comfort. Served for brunch, outside, were Hanssens Oude Gueuze, scrambled tofu, tempeh bacon, and, of course, bagels (whole wheat).
The photographer preferred his brunch, non-'animaled,' and his beer, un-fruited. Other folk at table had hens' eggs and pigs' bacon, and mimosas of gueuze and orange juice. All were pleased.