ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Lambic beers from the Belgian wild

Updated on May 24, 2013
Lambic in glass from Bernt Rostad on Flickr
Lambic in glass from Bernt Rostad on Flickr

Belgium is known for its beer. Between the Trappist monks brewing deep ales and lagers, it’s impossible to visit Brussels without pulling a bottle of something good off the shelf. But even beyond the norm of brews carefully monitored by brewmasters is lambic, a beer brewed through wild fermentation.

Although most lambic beers these days are twice-fermented, resulting in such lambic varieties as gueuze and kriek, all lambic beers carry the memories--and bacteria--of the Senne valley in Belgium. This leads to a unique flavor unique any other beer.

Lambic beers throughout history

Historians suggest that, like many other delicious things, lambic beer was created by accident. Grains were left out while women cooked meals. Because they were left out in the open, they were exposed to the microorganisms of the Senne valley. After a period of time, the grains began to spontaneously ferment, resulting in some strange, amazing brews that were different from batch to batch.

Historically, beers were not cultivated with fancy equipment, timers, and thermometers. Malts or hops or any sort of ingredient was left to its own devices, and Mother Nature brewed it how she liked it. In this since, lambic beers are a testament to old brewing practices in a modern age. The word “lambic” is thought to have derived from the Dutch place name Lembeek, referring to a locale in Brussels.

Video on removing lambic beers from Bluegrass Brewery

Leftover lambic from quinn.anya on Flickr
Leftover lambic from quinn.anya on Flickr

What's in a lambic?

Lambic beers embody the essence of terroir. A lambic brew cannot be made outside of the Senne valley without changing into something wholly different from a lambic as we know it. Scientists have studied the beer yeasts and bacteria in lambic beers, and they’ve found over 80 microorganisms involved in the wild fermentation. The most significant microorganism, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, is named after its namesake city and gives the lambic its characteristic taste. Some American brewers are beginning to use Brettanomyces bruxellensis in their craft beers.

The starter brew for lambic beers contains barley malt and unmalted wheat in a 3:7 ratio. After cooling, the wort remains exposed to the microorganisms in the brewery, and most anything can make its way into the brew. Brewers take care to brew lambic from late fall into early summer, as brewing at any other time could allow unwanted microorganisms to make their way into the wort.

Lambic beers are left to ferment in wooden barrels for years. They continue to collect funky goodness from the wilds of Brussels, sitting in the barrels uncovered over the course of the fermentation process.

Many times, the final lambic product will be a blend of different brews and the aforementioned fermented wort. Many times, the word “producer” refers to someone who blends beers to create new brews. Special varieties of lambic like gueuze and kriek are created in such a way.

Wild Brews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer's Yeast
Wild Brews: Beer Beyond the Influence of Brewer's Yeast

This book talks about the wild fermentation processes involved in Belgian brewing.


With flavors of fruit and wild yeast

Lambic is funky and sour and wild. No two batches are alike, so every bottle--even every sip--has a depth of character unlike that found in micromanaged ales, lagers, and stouts. Since most lambic beers are made with fruit, they tend to be sweet as well as sour.

Although hops are used to brew lambic, they are always stale. Hops help to preserve beer as well as flavor it. When the hops are stale, they lose their flavor but help boost a beer's shelf life. Lambic beers are shelf-stable but not at all hoppy. Lambic beers lack the earthy, hoppy bitterness of other beers.

The interplay of flavors in a lambic results in a deep, complex brew. As sours and acids help liven sweet flavors, the sweetness of the fruits in fruited lambic beers rings clear in the sourness of lambic's wild fermentation. Companies who use lambic’s characteristic beer yeast, the Brettanomyces bruxellensis, create beers with earthy, wet hay-like flavors that bring out the wildness of the brew.

Aging lambic from Bernt Rostad on Flickr
Aging lambic from Bernt Rostad on Flickr

Lambic explosion

Belgians are proud of their lambic. When you ask a local on advice for picking out a Belgian beer, among all the other offers, they’ll tell you to try a lambic. It’s a wholly different type of drink, one that non-beer drinkers can enjoy, especially the cherry-flavored kriek. Lambic beers are popular in Belgium and are a staple of Belgian cuisine.

The complex brewing process and uniqueness of lambic beers has garnered world attention. Most bottled brews available outside of Belgium are fruity and twice-fermented. Both kriek and gueuze are available in specialty shops around the globe. Many imported lambic beers are sweetened with sugar or flavored syrups due to the tartness of the initial brew.

Tart cherries from ReadJulia on Flickr
Tart cherries from ReadJulia on Flickr

Types of lambic beers, from kriek to gueuze

There are many types of lambic beer, although not all are widely available outside of Belgium. Lambic itself, for example, is usually not sold in the States. It's cloudy, uncarbonated, and extremely tart.

Gueuze and kriek are the two most well-known varieties of lambic. Gueuze is a mix of aged and young lambic beers that undergoes a second fermentation, which results in carbon dioxide bubbles in the brew. Kriek is a mix of lambic and sour cherries. As the lambic and cherries undergo a second fermentation, the beer turns deep, deep cherry red and takes on a rich cherry flavor.

Faro is a mix of lambic and light beer, resulting in a mild, sugary brew. It's bottled as to prevent refermentation, and the end result has very little carbonation. At one point, it was considered to be a cheap beer, but these days, that stigma has disappeared.

Fruit lambic beers are those lambic beers mixed with fruit and given a second fermentation. Much like kriek, the end result is carbonated and richly fruity. Common fruit lambic beers are pêche, or peach, cassis, or blackcurrant, and framboise, or raspberry. Although the label may read fruit lambic, not all fruity lambic beers are actually made with lambic brews.

Have you ever had lambic?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • tastiger04 profile image


      5 years ago

      Great hub, I love lambics! thanks for the info, voted up :)


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)