Style Details

Fruit Lam­bic
Euro­pean Sour Ale
BJCP Style Code
23 F
The varie­ty of fruit gene­ral­ly deter­mi­nes the color, alt­hough ligh­ter-colo­red fruit may have litt­le effect on the color. The color inten­si­ty may fade with age. Cla­ri­ty is often good, alt­hough some fruit will not drop bright. A thick rocky, mousse-like head, some­ti­mes a sha­de of fruit, is gene­ral­ly long-las­ting (car­bo­na­ti­on-depen­dent). Car­bo­na­ti­on is typi­cal­ly high, but must be specified.
The spe­ci­fied fruit should be the domi­nant aro­ma. A low to modera­te­ly sour cha­rac­ter blends with aro­mas descri­bed as bar­n­yard, ear­thy, goa­ty, hay, hor­sey, and hor­se blan­ket (and thus should be reco­gnizable as a lam­bic). The fruit aro­ma com­mon­ly blends well with the other aro­mas. An ente­ric, smo­ky, cigar-like, or chee­sy aro­ma is unfa­vorable. No hop aroma.
The spe­ci­fied fruit should be evi­dent. Low to modera­te­ly sour fla­vor, often with an aci­dic bite in the finish. The clas­sic bar­n­yard cha­rac­te­ristics may be low to high. When young, the beer will pre­sent its full frui­ty tas­te. As it ages, the lam­bic tas­te will beco­me domi­nant at the expen­se of the fruit character—thus fruit lam­bics are not inten­ded for long aging. The finish is com­mon­ly dry and tart, but a low, com­ple­men­ta­ry sweet­ness may be pre­sent; hig­her sweet­ness levels are not tra­di­tio­nal but can be included for per­so­nal pre­fe­rence (sweet­ness level must be spe­ci­fied). A mild vanil­la and/or oak fla­vor is occa­sio­nal­ly noti­ceable. An ente­ric, smo­ky or cigar-like cha­rac­ter is unde­si­ra­ble. Hop bit­ter­ness is gene­ral­ly absent; aci­di­ty pro­vi­des the balan­ce. No hop flavor. 
Light to medi­um-light body. In spi­te of the low finis­hing gra­vi­ty, the many mouth-fil­ling fla­vors pre­vent the beer from tasting like water. Has a low to high tart, pucke­ring qua­li­ty wit­hout being shar­ply astrin­gent. Some ver­si­ons have a light warm­ing cha­rac­ter. Car­bo­na­ti­on can vary from spar­k­ling to near­ly still (must be specified).
Over­all Impression
A com­plex, frui­ty, plea­sant­ly sour, wild wheat ale fer­men­ted by a varie­ty of Bel­gi­an micro­bio­ta, and show­ca­sing the fruit con­tri­bu­ti­ons blen­ded with the wild cha­rac­ter. The type of fruit can some­ti­mes be hard to iden­ti­fy as fer­men­ted and aged fruit cha­rac­te­ristics can seem dif­fe­rent from the more reco­gnizable fresh fruit aro­mas and flavors.
Typi­cal Ingredients
Unmal­ted wheat (30-40%), Pils­ner malt and aged hops (3 years) are used. The aged hops are used more for pre­ser­va­ti­ve effects than bit­ter­ness, and makes actu­al bit­ter­ness levels dif­fi­cult to esti­ma­te. Tra­di­tio­nal pro­ducts use 10-30% fruit (25%, if cher­ry). Fruits tra­di­tio­nal­ly used include tart cher­ries (with pits), raspber­ries or Mus­cat gra­pes. More recent examp­les include pea­ches, apri­cots or mer­lot gra­pes. Tart or aci­dic fruit is tra­di­tio­nal­ly used as its pur­po­se is not to swee­ten the beer but to add a new dimen­si­on. Tra­di­tio­nal­ly the­se beers are spon­ta­neous­ly fer­men­ted with natu­ral­ly occur­ring yeast and bac­te­ria in pre­do­mi­na­te­ly oaken bar­rels. The bar­rels used are old and have litt­le oak cha­rac­ter, so don’t expect a fresh or for­ward oak cha­rac­ter – more neu­tral is typi­cal. Home-bre­wed and craft-bre­wed ver­si­ons are more typi­cal­ly made with pure cul­tures of yeast com­mon­ly inclu­ding Sac­ch­aro­my­ces, Brett­anomy­ces, Pedio­coc­cus and Lac­to­ba­cil­lus in an attempt to recrea­te the effects of the domi­nant micro­bio­ta of Brussels and the sur­roun­ding coun­try­si­de of the Sen­ne River val­ley. Cul­tures taken from bot­t­les are some­ti­mes used but the­re is no simp­le way of kno­wing what orga­nisms are still viable.
Spon­ta­neous­ly fer­men­ted wild ales from the area in and around Brussels (the Sen­ne Val­ley) stem from a farm­house bre­wing and blen­ding tra­di­ti­on seve­ral cen­tu­ries old. The num­ber of pro­du­cers is con­stant­ly dwind­ling and some are untra­di­tio­nal­ly sweetening their pro­ducts (post-fer­men­ta­ti­on) with sugar or sweet fruit to make them more palata­ble to a wider audi­ence. Fruit was tra­di­tio­nal­ly added to lam­bic or gueu­ze, eit­her by the blen­der or publi­can, to increase the varie­ty of beers available in local cafes.
Fruit-based lam­bics are often pro­du­ced like gueu­ze by mixing one, two, and three-year old lam­bic. “Young” lam­bic con­ta­ins fer­men­ta­ble sug­ars while old lam­bic has the cha­rac­te­ristic “wild” tas­te of the Sen­ne River val­ley. Fruit is com­mon­ly added half­way through aging and the yeast and bac­te­ria will fer­ment all sug­ars from the fruit. Fruit may also be added to unblen­ded lam­bic. The most tra­di­tio­nal styl­es of fruit lam­bics include kriek (cher­ries), fram­bo­i­se (raspber­ries) and drui­ven­lam­bik (mus­cat gra­pes). IBUs are appro­xi­ma­te sin­ce aged hops are used; Bel­gi­ans use hops for anti-bac­te­ri­al pro­per­ties more than bit­te­ring in lambics.
Com­mer­cial Examples
Boon Fram­bo­i­se Mar­ria­ge Par­fait, Boon Kriek Maria­ge Par­fait, Boon Oude Kriek, Can­til­lon Fou’ Foune, Can­til­lon Kriek, Can­til­lon Lou Pepe Kriek, Can­til­lon Lou Pepe Fram­bo­i­se, Can­til­lon Rose de Gam­bri­nus, Can­til­lon St. Lam­vi­nus, Can­til­lon Vigne­ron­ne, De Cam Oude Kriek, Drie Font­ei­nen Kriek, Girar­din Kriek, Hans­sens Oude Kriek, Oud Beer­sel Kriek, Mort Subi­te Kriek
Ori­gi­nal Gravity
1.040 - 1.060 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.000 - 1.010 SG
3 - 7 SRM
5.0 - 7.0 %vol
0 - 10 IBU