Gueuze (pronounced gooze) is the bubbly of Brussels. “No thank you,” you say, “I didn’t come to Belgium to drink champagne, now bring on the beer!” Although its taste is deceptive, worry not ex-frat beer-chugger, gueuze is beer. Often called the “Champagne of Brussels”, at its core, gueuze is lightly sweet, fruity, earthy, dry, and really fucking sour with a lot of carbonation. Sour beers are celebrated and loved all over the world, so fill a glass and let your palate explore new frontiers of the beer universe.
The Truths Behind Gueuze
Gueuze is filed under a broader category of beer called “lambic.” The black sheep of the beer family, lambic beers are pushed aside by its brothers, lager and ale. Ale, the sophisticated and cultured brother, is varied in his exploits. These are our stouts, porters, IPAs, and so on. Lager is the meathead jock of the family. These are all the fizzy yellow beers out there, and what you see is what you get (for the most part). Lambic is the brother who ran away to live in the woods and only comes out to scream about the end of the world and to take his pants off in public. Nobody talks about it because it’s too fucking wild.
Making Gueuze Booze
...and it's made in a wild way. For ales and lagers, the brewer mixes malt, hops and water and then adds yeast to initiate the fermentation, but lambics are different. After mixing the first three ingredients, the resulting frothy stew, called wort, is allowed to sit out to collect natural “wild” yeasts from the air in a process called “spontaneous fermentation.” The yeasts in the air around Brussels are said to be unique and give the beer its signature sour, acidic fruitiness. Finally, the beer is put into barrels and aged for up to three years. Turning this wild brew into gueuze requires taking a one-year old lambic, mixing it with a two and three-year-old lambic, and sticking it in a bottle to age for ANOTHER year.
Getting Your Hands on Gueuze
Breweries like Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, and Lindemans export, but you’ll have to hunt down a specialty beer store to get your hands on one. In the states, they’ll run you about ten bucks for a small bottle (375ml), in Europe you’ll pay the same for a large bottle (750ml). If you visit Brussels, prices drop dramatically. When you’re there, make sure to take a tour of the incredible Cantillon brewery, which includes two glasses of their unique beer, for about six bucks.
Use gueuze as an excuse to visit Brussels, the land of Van Damme. While you can sip on the stuff in the states, aging it to perfection is key and the breweries in Brussels do it best. This stuff will gracefully gain flavor wrinkles on a shelf for up to 50 goddamned years! Let’s see your fizzy beer-water do that.