Increasingly, beer has become my drink of choice and a variety of circumstances have recently prompted me to develop my interest a little more formally. I used to be more of a fizzy cocktail kind of gal, but I've started reading books, taking tasting notes, watching documentaries, researching craft brews and even looking into home brewing. It's pretty much all I've been thinking about, whereas a few weeks ago, I knew little more than the average gal. What's extra fun about beer is that the point of entry is pretty accessible. Winos might ask you about terroir and aging, but what I've found with beer "snobs" is an emphasis on taste and having a good time, above all else. Considering that I'm the kind of gal who's equally impressed by the new selection of Quarter Pounders at McDonald's as I am by a hoity-toity cheese plate, I'm really digging the no-nonsense, what's-good-is-good vibes I'm getting from the beer community.
And once you really start tasting beers, you'll naturally gravitate toward good stuff. Bud Light will do nothing for you in comparison to a delicious chocolate stout, say, for example, not that I'm obsessed with chocolate stouts or anything. However, as I've talked about my new project with friends and colleagues, many people have told me that they either don't like beer or that they just choose a trusty brand they recognize off a list when at a bar. If, like me, you traditionally like pink, fizzy, fruity drinks and you're unsure of where to start on your beer journey, might I suggest a lambic?
I have no idea what the beer snob stance on lambic is since it doesn't really taste like those flavors we traditionally associate with beer. In fact, I'd say lambic tastes more like champagne or, even, with fruit lambics, a less trashy Mike's Hard, but it's beer.
Lambic is made differently than traditional ales and lagers. Rather than carefully cultivating yeasts and adding that yeast at precisely the right moment in a controlled environment, lambic undergoes "spontaneous fermentation." The beer sits in an open vat and is just allowed to age and ferment whether a spider crawls in or a little mold grows. The resulting flavor is a little funky, but totally yummy.
Fruit lambics, which are most commonly found in the U.S., are what I'm really talking about. Cherries, raspberries, peach, apple or other fruits are added after the initial fermentation process for an additional fermentation and the beer takes on the color and flavor of the fruit, but is way more balanced than an overly sweet cocktail. The addition of hops (like with all beers) prevents spoilage, but also gives a tinge of bitterness. With lambics, the hops are generally aged, so the bite is a bit less severe. Plus there is a underlying sourness and plenty of fizz.
Anyway, I freakin' love fruit lambic. They're somewhat rare to find on daught outside of Belgium, it seems, and I usually see this Lindemans brand at my nearby stores, which is said to be sweeter and more syrupy than some other, more nuanced versions, but it certainly gets the job done.
One thing to remember when buying lambic is that the name of the fruit will appear in Flemish/French since lambic is Belgian in origin (and I think, technically, always out of Belgium still if it's to be called "lambic"), so learn the Flemish work for your favorite fruit, stat:
kriek - cherry
framboise - raspberry
peche/pecheresse - peach
cassis - black currants
pomme - apple
These are the most common, but I've also heard of banana, pear, and more. The pour is rich and fruity, with sourness to back it up and a tinge of bitter at the end. Plus, there's that little bit of funk, which I find delightful. I'm on a quest to find more, authentic versions of this beer, so give me a shout if you find a great one in NYC!