Gueuze. A blend of young and old lambics. I've had some - a couple of sweetened ones from St. Louise and Mort Subite and Lindeman's drier Gueuze Cuvée René. All very pleasant but these two are perhaps on the more...errr...hostile side of dry. But I am here to learn so bear with me.
Before we get there, what does gueuze mean? I've been asking around a bit lately. Lew was stumped...and just a tiny bit sweary Mary: "Damn, no, never knew about that. I REALLY need to read some Dutch history. I keep reading around the edges of it. Thanks for the prod in that direction." Prof. Unger of UBC of the great books on medieval beer gave me his guess when I noted the naming of a group of 16th century Dutch rebels, the watergeuzen:
...Geuze = "beggar" is a French word that only appeared in the mid 15th century and was taken over into Dutch [Flemish] in the 16th and connected, as you say, with nobles who rebelled against the crown in 1566. There was a middle French word geus which meant throat and so came to mean hungry and my guess is that the beer type comes from that meaning. Also though I will not swear to it I think geuze is a beer type of the South, that is the southern Netherlands and which does not turn up in the Dutch Republic where, if the name were connected to the watergeuzen you would expect it to be used. I could be wrong but that is my best guess at the moment.Ron Pattinson posts about another non-source of the meaning of gueuze with today's post entitled "Gose" about the our beer of Leipzig stating that while the names are not related that there was "once a whole family of sour wheat beers, brewed right across the North of Germany and the Low Countries, from Brussels to Berlin and beyond." So while it might or might not be "begger's ale" or could be more or less directly linked to the other forms of sour beer, there is this set of sourness that speaks to a former time in some way, though one always has to be careful with claims to "authentic" and "heritage" in the world of drinks as in anything.
These beers are very similar. Cantillon's Classic Gueuze is a 2006 bottling of blended 1, 2 and 3 year old lambics (and apparently a relabelling of their Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic-Bio, an Organic Gueuze) while Hanssens Oude Gueuze (the "oude" being explained on the brewer's site that features no way to link to the actual page within the site) states on its label that it is matured for over three years in the bottle. There is more of a head with the Hanssens as I think you can see from the photo to the left with a coating white froth and rim jumping up from the slightest swirl over the amber straw ale while the addition of an ounce of the Cantillon to the wine glass quickly dissipates to a fine thin white rim over more lemon tinged straw ale.
Each give off a tart brightness when subjected to brief nosal inquiry, the Hanssens having a bit richer aroma. In the mouth, there is a clear distinction with the Hanssens being not just vinegary but also somewhat creamy with an unsweetened grapefruit white thing - slight vanilla and tiny note of lime in the middle of a sea of unsweetened white grapefruit juice. The Cantillon is a little thinner with maybe pear, citrus pith and grass under the sour white grapefruit tartosity. BAers like the Cantillon a lot and the Hanssens a tiny bit more. Both lack the barnyard funk that I found so especially pungent and a wee bit foul with Cantillon's Bruocsella 1990 Grand Cru the reaction to which was one trigger for these sour beer studies of mine.
I paid Cantillon 7.50 USD for the 375 ml Cantillon while the Hanssens was 4.99 USD. As a result, if you are going for just one of these to try a first dry gueuze, pick up the Hanssens even though the Cantillon is probably a tiny bit less tart. Someday I will sprinkle one of these on my french fries. And bit steamed or even coconut shrimp. The big question is still "do I like these beers?" When I was a teen, I played soccer for the high school team. After daily practice, I drank a litre of white grapefruit to cut the sweat and on a hot humid day these two tart ales reminded me of that. But I still want to try them on fries. Is that so wrong?
More sour beer studies here.