Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mikkeller: Spontanale (lambic gueuze) – Love it, hate it, but certainly try it.

While Mikkeller officially hails from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewmaster, manager, et al., brews beer in a variety of locations throughout Europe and the United States. Mikkeller’s Spontanale is brewed at De Proefbrouwerij, which lies in a small rural village just a few kilometers northeast of Ghent. You might say that this site is a bit off the mark for brewing what is essentially a lambic gueuze – a style traditionally brewed in Belgium’s Senne Valley, where the “wild” yeasts from the Senne River, along with wild yeasts lurking within the brewery, spontaneously feed on the sugar-rich worts of some of the region’s finest breweries. This process gives rise to those sour, cidery, and super dry lambic beers that people love, hate, or have yet to try. My particular encounter with Spontanale was with a friend, and we both arrived at similar conclusions: While Boon, Cantillon, and Lindemans brew measurably better lambics, Mikkeller’s Spontanale is a damn good attempt at making what some see as the most complex, if not funky and offensive beers around. 

Popping the cork and pouring it into a glass reveals the unmistakable lambic signatures: The body appears as a translucent amber color with a rather large, fluffy, slightly off-white head. The lacing is a bit thin and runny, which seems to be the case with most lambics I’ve tried. The aroma slaps you in the face even when sitting a meter or so away from the glass. For Spontanale, the nose is a bit less “wild” than some of the more robust lambics out there. To be sure, the pungent smells of barnyard, vinegar, wet hay, horse blanket, etc. accompany Spontanale’s nose, but it’s certainly far less aggressive than a Cantillon gueuze, for example. The same can be applied to the taste: While the sourness is aggressive, it has less potential to offend, disgust, and sicken; amaze, arouse, and instigate; or amuse, enchant, and gratify when compared to that same Cantillon. Not surprisingly, the mouthfeel comes with lots of carbonation, and the finish is quite dry, as with any respectable lambic.

I certainly recommend trying Spontanale if for no other reason than to show your support for Mikkel’s ceaseless capacity to make some of the most interesting, innovative, and complex brews around. If you’ve never tried a lambic, Spontanale might be a nice, somewhat mild and well-balanced introduction to something you will probably either love or hate. But, if you want to dive right into the seriously rougher side of beer, then I do suggest going for the more aggressive Cantillon gueuze instead. 


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