Week 30 in the Year Of Drinking Adventurously. Gueuze.
We’re still “in Belgium” this week for another style of brewed goodness. Gueuze is probably not a style of beer that you’ve heard of. But perhaps you’re familiar with the term lambic? Lambic beer arises from adding fruit to the wort (the boiled ingredients including grains and/or malted extracts and other additions like spices) and letting the flavors permeate the brew. Ingredients like cherries, strawberries, peaches, raspberries add a distinct fruitiness to the finished product. For non-beer drinkers, lambic may be a palatable option. Lambics remind me more of cider than traditional beer. Gueuze is a blend of Lambics. Usually, blending one, two and three year old brews together. The resulting combination facilitates a secondary fermentation and brings on natural carbonation.
For this week’s adventure, I took a short ride to the next town over — Perkasie, Pennsylvania. Literally less than five miles from my house. Freewill Brewing Company has been around for a mere four years, but in that time have carved a niche in not just the local Bucks County and Philadelphia region but have also expanded into New Jersey, Delaware and the Boston area. One of their specialties? Sour beers. Perfect for researching this week and last week’s posts. This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to take the brewery tour and to talk to one of the Brewers, Hannah about the sour beers Freewill specializes in.
The “clean beer” is brewed and fermented on the main floor of the brewery. We aren’t really concerned with these beers this week. Through a winding corridor and down a flight of stairs, we enter the “sour cellar” where the wild yeasts thrive and the dank, funky atmosphere provides the perfect conditions for making sour beer.
After boiling, the wort goes into huge plastic totes and the pieces of fruit are added. There it sits burping away until such time it gets transferred to an aged oak barrel. For the purpose of sour beer aging, Freewill uses old wine barrels and in some cases, brace yourself, old grappa barrels! There it remains for a year or two.
The sour beer varieties are then bottled and sold for consumption. One of the interesting things about the wild yeast: it self propagates and it evolves. The original strain was purchased several years back from another small brewery and its progeny has been fermenting Freewills’s sours ever since.
Since the varieties on tap in the taproom constantly change, the only sour I sampled this week was When Doves Cry: a Kettle Sour IPA with a 7.5% ABV. A collaboration with Evil Genius for Philly Beer Week, it’s a kettle sour with elderberries, notes of grapefruit and strawberries. Tart and refreshing.
The other beers in my flight were a saison, an American IPA and a spicy habanero Imperial Ale. I brought home some bottles though. The Grape Sour and… made with Pennsylvania peaches “Peachy McPeachface” sour peach ale.
More beers from Belgium next week and if all goes well, another local adventure!
See how it “gueuze” with Lula!