Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Lindemans Lambic Beers

Dear friends, with the year coming to an end and me still not having had the time to sit down and write some new, well-thought out posts, I decided to republish this piece from last December, because it mirrors what we have been drinking a lot here in Alaska: Lambics. It was also the first article on beer that I posted here…so it does have nostalgic value. Wishing you a great New Year’s Eve and, as we say in German, a “good slide into 2014”! See you next year.

“I am not really a beer drinker. I recognize its value while watching sports or also during BBQs, but otherwise I am not enjoying beer very much. Especially the oh so beloved IPAs give me the creeps. I don’t understand or appreciate their bitterness. If I have to, I go for pilsner style beers. There are some exceptions, though, beers that I really enjoy: And those are Belgian beers that have fruit added to them (a sacrilegious act for Germans!). Whatever makes beer taste less like beer makes me happy. Nina and I actually toasted to our engagement with a raspberry beer that we had in the fridge only to find out later when we looked at the label that it was a “mort subite” (sudden death, how fitting)…

Now, this is the second time I am celebrating Christmas with my wife’s family in Alaska. It is breathtakingly gorgeous and about as Christmassy as it gets: tons of snow, lots of darkness (aka tons of sleep), and crisp and clean air. Everything is very relaxed with my in laws which I also appreciate. One of the Christmas traditions is to have lambics, because my mother in law loves them. They are a type of Belgian fruit beers. The brand we get, because it is readily available, is from Lindemans Brewery in Vlezenbeek, Belgium which has been around since 1811.

Lambics are produced with spontaneous fermentation, that means unlike other beers they use the yeasts that naturally are dispersed in the air instead of cultured yeasts. Lindemans ferments the beer, then adds the fruit and starts a second fermentation. The resulting beers remind me way more of a cider than a beer (which is good for me). If you want to know more, their U.S. importers have a pretty decent website (here).

This year, we were able to have a veritable cross-tasting because we had acquired 750ml bottles of framboise (raspberry), cassis (black currant), pomme (apple), pêche (peach) and kriek (sour cherries). Up until Christmas Day, I only ever had raspberry and loved it.

Lindemans Framboise and Cassis

Lindemans Framboise and Cassis

The framboise lambic was as good as ever: Nicely acidic, full of that wonderfully tart raspberry aroma that I like so much.

The cassis was stunning: It really smelled as intense as the cassis liqueur that you add to sparkling wine or still white wine to make kir royal or kir. It had a wonderfully strong blackcurrant aroma which was topped by the refreshing maltiness of the beer.

The pomme was very similar to a cider, although a bit more acidic than the ciders I prefer. It was quite sour actually, but still refreshing. Not in the top for me. I would prefer a cider over this one.

The pêche was the most interesting for me. I am not a big fan of peaches, they tend to be too sweet for my taste without redeeming acidity. But, as you may guess from my previous notes on lambics, in this beer it worked because there was a healthy amount of acidity. The peach aromas balanced that nicely and were never overbearing. Decent lambic.

The kriek is problematic for me because I don’t like cherries very much. I just had a sip of it, and it was ok. If you like cherries, like pretty much everyone, you would most likely be quite happy with this one. My in laws definitely were.

Lindemans Peche, Pomme and Kriek

Lindemans Peche, Pomme and Kriek

It was tons of fun tasting through these different, vibrant varieties of lambic. They are easily available in the U.S. (I have seen them in liquor stores, at the grocery store and even in wine stores), so go grab a bottle if you can. You’re in for a treat if you like fruity beers.”

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Sunday Read: What you should get “me” for Christmas

It’s just two more nights and Christmas will be on us (ok, three for you Americans, us Europeans like to open presents the night of the 24th…). Crazy how this year raced by us so fast. And let’s admit it, some of us still have not found the right presents…as panic settles in, the chance of grabbing something, lets call it a sub-par gift, increases. We end up buying a gift that might say a lot about us, but maybe not in the way we want it. And it can make the recipient feel uncomfortable…

My buddy Jeff The Drunken Cyclist wrote a great piece about how gifts for wine lovers (such as me) can go horribly wrong, and what you should actually consider giving if you are not sure. His piece is funny, as always, and enlightening, as most of the time. And it really spoke to me. So if you have a wine lover you still need to get gifts for, consider reading his take on it, which I whole-heartedly give my two thumbs up approval.

It’s unlikely you will be hearing from me before Christmas, so let me take the time to wish all of you who celebrate it, a great time with your loved ones, some peace and quiet, and some quality time together. We all, whether celebrating or not, can use it as the year draws to a close. I will be celebrating with my in-laws in Alaska, a tradition that has become one of the best additions to my life lately. The snow, the many dark hours, people I deeply care about who I have come to love and who accept me as one of theirs, great food and conversation, and last but not least the quiet of a remotely located house on a hill all combine for a wonderful way to spend these last days of the year.

I will be publishing something between the years, as we say in Germany, so no need to say good bye to 2013 yet.

The Drunken Cyclist: What you should get “me” for Christmas 

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What exactly is ice wine and why is it so expensive?

I published this post in May of 2012, but since as of late a) a friend of mine found it while she was researching Eiswein, b) this was an early post so chances are many of you have not seen this, and c) it was -20 degrees Celsius (-5 degrees F) last night up here in Alaska, I thought it was a good time to republish this post. I hope winter is treating you all well!

There is a magic aura that surrounds German ice wine (“Eiswein” in German), especially the Rieslings. It is rare, it is expensive, and to me, it is more syrup than wine. German ice wine can only be harvested when it is -7 degrees Celsius (19 degrees F). This often only happens in December or January, which means the winemakers have to leave the grapes on for way after the usual harvest. If it does not get that cold, then the grapes will be lost, same is true if birds feed on them, which is why most now put some sort of net or plastic around the vines that carry the grapes. Other countries have resorted to collecting unfrozen grapes and then freezing them to produce ice wine. It takes away from that whole magic, and the grapes are not as weathered as they are in German ice wine.

Grapes protected by plastic in Karl Erbes vinyards.
(Photo from Karl Erbes website at weingut-karlerbes.de)

The winemakers watch the weather and temperature forecasts nonstop to ensure that they are ready to go when the temperatures are right. They then venture out and harvest the grapes, bringing them back as soon as they can, because it is vital that the grapes remain frozen when they are crushed. The harvest itself usually produces stunning photos (as you can see), often it happens in the early morning hours. The grapes need to be of at least Beerenauslese level in sweetness. Check this post for what that is…

Frozen grapes
(Photo from Karl Erbes website at weingut-karlerbes.de)

Because the water remains mostly frozen in the grapes, the little juice that is coming out is highly concentrated. The levels of sugar and acidity are very high, which makes these wines so interesting. Once the grapes have been crushed, the fermentation process needs to get going, which is not the easiest thing to achieve at such low temperatures. A friend of mine once told me about the small heating fans he surrounds the juice with in order to get things started…

Carrying the grapes in the traditional bucket
(Photo from Karl Erbes website at weingut-karlerbes.de)

The outcome is intense, intense wines. They are usually bottled in half bottles, and command a premium price. In the steep hills of the Mosel river, harvesting is done by hand. If you see a cheap(er) ice wine (usually from Rheinhessen or Baden), that usually means that they were machine harvested, which cuts the labor price and therefore their bottle price. It takes away part of the myth, though…

Ice wines age incredibly well, and are good for decades, sometimes centuries. In their first years, they are almost overbearingly intense: the sweetness of the sugar, raging acidity on your tongue, it can be mindblowing. With age, they mellow out more, and that is when their true beauty shines. I can never drink more than a small glass in one go, but I think that is a good thing. Ice Wine is meant to be shared, and enjoyed at very special occasions, because they are very special indeed.

Update 12/12/2012: Check out the video of an ice wine harvest here!

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