Soaking Up the Suds
by James Crane
Lambic — in a class of its own
This is the last one for a while; I promise. I didn’t plan on doing another pumpkin beer review this week, but I came across something so unique, it had to be done. This year was full of adventurous pumpkin beers for me, from heavily spiced ales to chocolate pumpkin porters. They’ve ranged from interesting to awesome. None of them prepared me for what I have come across for this week’s Soaking Up the Suds. Timmermans has produced a Pumpkin Lambic, titled simply, Pumpkin Lambicus.
I’ve mentioned before in this column that there are only two real categories of beer — ales and lagers. While most beers will fall nicely into one of the two, I must admit to having lied.
Lambics are actually their own category of beer, being neither ale or lager. They are fermented by Lambicus (among other things), a wild yeast. While true Lambics can only be brewed in Belgium, this wild yeast has been cultivated and used in various parts of the world.
Pumpkin Lambicus, however, is the real deal. It comes all the way from Belgium. I was incredibly curious as to how pumpkin would pair with the generally tart, sour, and sweet Lambic. Part of me worried it could be somewhat of a train wreck. Oddly, I brought to mind a memory of my youth and Sunday morning breakfast. It was not uncommon for me to have a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice with the meal. I found each one to be pleasant on its own. My young mind thought it’d be a great idea to mix the two together. I was, of course, horribly wrong. I was hoping this beer wasn’t going down the same path.
The pour was nice. The color was a translucent orange amber with a volatile head to it. It had a very effervescent quality. The scent, at first, was comprised of sourness and yeast, a common thing for a Lambic. As I sniffed longer, something else came into play. I didn’t recognize it at first, as it was waiting humbly in the back ground, providing a stable base from which these wild scents sprang. It was brown sugar, which held nuances of pumpkin underneath it.
The first gulp was pure confusion. It was tart and sour, and then it was sweet. It was incredibly light in body and not very clingy. A moment after I swallowed, the taste was gone. This one didn’t linger. As I drank more, I could taste the subtle fruitiness of the pumpkin on the back end, held up by the brown sugar. Oddly, all those strong flavors did not overshadow the pumpkin, as they tend to do in many pumpkin brews. The opposite was actually true. All that ruckus actually served to showcase some actual pumpkin taste, not just the spices generally associated with the gourd.
Is it my favorite pumpkin beer? No, but it is perhaps the best take on the idea without resorting to an overly-spiced pumpkin pie taste. It’s also incredibly light and refreshing to boot, which is also in stark contrast to many of the others. Pumpkin Lambicus is rather surprising without getting gimmicky.
It’s adventurous with out being offensive. Best of all, it certainly is not orange juice mixed with milk.