Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Suds: Drie Fonteinen Beersel Lager

Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen is best known, I think it's fair to say, for its lambic and gueuze — by and large spontaneously fermented, sour, and often fruit-infused styles of Belgian beer.  It's certainly fair to say that's what I know them for best.  Their Oude Kriek, in particular, is a benchmark for me.  As much as I like Cantillon's Kriek, the version from Drie Fonteinen is less savagely tart but every bit as complex... and more downright drinkable.

It's that drinkability that draws me to their slightly more mainstream line of beers, as well.  Called "Beersel," after the town of Beersel where the brewery is located, the lineup includes a Belgian blond ale, an organic ("Biologisch") version of the same beer, and a lager.  I've seen the Beersel Lager, the topic of today's post, alternately referred to as Czech pilsner in style.  From my palate's perspective, though, I'd put it firmly in the classic lager camp — light amber in color, round and crisp yet fairly soft in mouthfeel; less bright and herbaceous, more malt-rich than what I think of as a classic pilsner.  While its carbonation level is higher than in the gueuze from 3Fonteinen, it would be considered low-carbonation by American standards, an attribute that adds to the beers easy drinking character.

Reasonably low-alcohol at 5.2%, straightforward up front, very gentle and open on the mid-palate, and just a wee funky on the finish, it goes down easy.  That bit'o'funk, meanwhile, makes me know I'm drinking not just any lager but a lager from Drie Fonteinen.  Not surprising, I suppose, given that it's brewed with the same basic ingredients used in the brewery's lambic production; selected bottom-fermenting yeast strains and a higher original gravity are the key differences.  If only it weren't so pricey (a single bottle averages around $6 US), I'd be happy to make a place for it in my regular, go-to rotation.


Kevin said...

David, the Beersel lager was brewed (as are a whole slew of other contract-type beers) at the De Proef brewery

Scroll down for the full list of beers brewed there, including some excellent ones from Mikkeller and others.

I too, find the Drie Fonteinen lambics to be the best, though I do love Cantillon as well. I believe they've stopped brewing lambics and gone back to just blending casks they've purchased from other lambic brewers. For a long time (pre 1998 or so) they were solely blenders, and then from 1998-2009 or so they had a brewery and then both due to a warehouse temp control mishap (a huge loss of aging bottled product) and an aging Armand Debelder they decided to stop brewing and return to just blending.

Kevin said...

I didn't mean to suggest that anything associated with the lambics was or is brewed at Proef. Going forward as far as I know, they are going to be buying and blending from the other lambic brewers, like Boon, Girardin, and I'm not exactly sure who else.

David McDuff said...

Thanks for all the great info. I knew about Debelder's losses due to the warehouse mishap (in fact I wrote about it in the context of another Sunday Suds a while back) but I hadn't realized the "brewery" had stepped back from brewing. Guess I should have realized it when I saw the new name, "Proef Drie Fonteinen," on their website....

As for the full lineup brewed and/or contract brewed at De Proef, holy crap that's a lot of beers! I wonder how many from that list are actually in regular production. Also, I must say that aside from some of the Mikkeller brews, I know very few of the beers on the list. So much beer and wine, so little time....

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