Go Gueuze! What's Up With This Sour Beer?

You want to serve something completely unexpected, and completely fantastic, at your next party? Try a gueuze. Not everyone may like this crazy tart, sour, and fruity beer...at least at first. But you can bet they'll be talking about it for weeks to come.

Gueuze, or geuze, is from the lambic arm of the Belgian family of beers. It's a blend of young and old lambics to which no actual fruit has been added. This is the real stuff!

If you've never had a gueuze before, the first taste can really twist your tongue into a knot. You need to give it a few more sips to get over the shock and to start tasting anything beyond the musty sour punch. It reminds me a lot of kombucha, actually.

Gueuze is fermented with wild yeast and local bacteria so you get a lot of that funky sour flavor typical of many Belgian beers. The blending of young and old also means that the flavors are super complex and layered. Gueuze is typically very crisp and juicy in the mouth with lots of tart fruity flavors. The carbonation is often so fizzy that the beer almost feels creamy across the tongue.

This beer is really great with food. Any course, any dish. You could pair tumblers of gueuze with a cheese plate as guests are mingling or serve it alongside a platter of roast chicken with all the fixings. I could even see sipping it with a fruit cobbler after dinner is over. Gueuze seems to pick up and compliment the flavors in whatever it is you have in front of you.

American craft brewers are just starting to play around with this style. You won't find many in bottles, but it's entirely possible that your local brewery is toying with a batch. One of the best gueuze that I've had recently was on tap at the Lagunitas Brewing Company beer room up in Petaluma, California. Most small breweries will let you buy a growler to take home with you.

Here are a few bottles to look for at your beer store:

Cantillon Gueuze Lambic from Brasserie Cantillon
Lindemans Gueuze from Brouwerij Lindemans
Gueuze 1882 from Brouwerij Girardin
Oulde Gueuze from Hanssens Artisanaal

As for how to pronounce it, just imagine yourself slouched against a bar in Belgium. Geueze sounds a bit like how you might respond if your companion says something particularly annoying: GUH-zeh! It helps to make expansive arm gestures while you're at it.

Do you love gueuze? Which ones do you recommend?

Related: Barrel-Aged Beers: Loving or Hating?

(Image: Flickr member Bernt Rostad licensed under Creative Commons)

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