*CBG Jess was on the scene for Delilah’s Lambic & Sour Beer Festival, here is her report.
Sometimes it is good to venture outside of your comfort zone. I did just that on Saturday when I attended the Lambic and Sour Beer Festival at Delilah’s. I know very little about Belgian beer in general, and I know next to nothing about lambics, guezes, sours, or any other beer that makes you think you just bit into a lemon. I know what you are thinking… “So, Jess. It sounds like you don’t really like these types of beers. Why spend an afternoon tasting them?” The answer is that I want to like them. And I have been successful training my taste buds to desire all of the hoppy, bitter beers (I am now a self-proclaimed hop head), perhaps I can train my little guys to like sour beers, too. I’m getting there; I now enjoy tart Flemish Reds and some Krieks (a cherry lambic) but there are still quite a lot of beers out there that are still way too “advanced” for me. So what better way to try to expand my sour beer repertoire than at a sour beer fest?
Lambics and sour beers are quite fascinating. They are made by wild fermentation (e.g., yeast is not added to them by a brewer but rather the fermentors are left open to allow natural organisms to set up shop). They take an incredibly long time to come to maturation, as they are typically barrel aged for up to three years and then blended with freshly brewed lambics. Sometimes learning about the process and dedication it takes to make something makes me want to enjoy them more, hence my persistence in tasting sour beers.
I arrived at Delilah’s in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood at a little before noon. The Delilah’s crew was already letting people in, though, so I decided to not waste any more time and venture into the dark confines of one of Chicago’s best dive bars. The cost was $20 for a set of drink tickets, a tasting glass, and a guide as to what beers were available. Bottles of lambics were lined up along the bar. Most beers cost one ticket but there were a few older vintages that cost two or maybe three tickets. I didn’t know where to start so I just went with the first one on the bar: Cantillon St. Lamvinus 2007, aged with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This beer was quite tart; so tart that I wasn’t picking up any of the fruit. This one was in the “too advanced for me” category.
Next, I sampled Drie Fonteinen Kriek 2009 which was smooth and only slightly tart with fresh cherries on the nose. I then went to the Boon Kriek 2009 which I really liked. It was not sour at all; just somewhat tart with lovely fresh cherry taste. While the majority of the offerings were authentic Belgian sours, there were a few that were American or another country’s interpretation of the classic Belgian beer. I tried Uinta’s Birthday Suit Sour Cherry Ale 2012; my main impetus to trying this one was that I have a bottle of it at home and wanted to make sure I liked it. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for this one. It was very thin with light cherry flavor and minimal aroma. I was disappointed. Anyone want to trade something for my bottle?
I then noticed that they had a bottle of 2010 Goose Island Madam Rose. While I have had this beer are numerous occasions before, I could not pass it up and felt it was worth the 1 ticket price. At my friend’s encouragement, I ventured upstairs to try the guezes. These beers scare me a bit; while I can acquire a taste for tartness, I cannot seem to want to drink a beer with a descriptor of “horse blanket.”
I was pretty impressed with what I tried, though. The Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueze 1999 was pretty good, although I’m pretty sure that much of the funkiness probably dropped out over the 13 years of bottle aging. And the De Troch Chapeau Winter Geuze 2006 was more reminiscent of honey than feet; it was sweet and thick, nothing like the guezes I had tried previously.
This was a fun way to spend the afternoon. I appreciated that the servers carefully measured out each pour with marked glasses and then would pour the beer into your own tasting glass. They were also careful to rinse out your tasting glasses so you don’t have the residue of the previous beer left to interfere with what you are currently tasting. And I also appreciated that they were handing out Tums at the upstairs bar. Regardless of how much you like sour beers, they do tend to create a bit of heartburn so this was a nice touch. And I saw someone wearing a Chicago Beer Geeks t-shirt so he is now entered in the June contest drawing! Be sure to wear your CBG shirt out and about for a chance to win!