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New book dispels common misconceptions surrounding lambic beer

10:29 02/09/2022

A new book by Belgian historian Raf Meert shines a new light on the history of Belgium’s famed lambic beer.

A speciality linked to the Zenne river valley, lambic beer has a distinctive sour taste thanks to a brewing process that involves spontaneous fermentation.

Meert’s latest study, Lambic. The Untamed Brussels Beer. Origin, Evolution and Future, centres on the brewing process and origins of gueuze and kriek beers. In the process, he refutes some of the myths and stories around the unique brew.

While conducting some personal genealogical research, Meert found some historical inaccuracies in the records of Timmermans and Lindemans breweries. The historian posted his findings on his blog lambik1801, a reference to the earliest recorded iteration of this type of beer.

Meert suggests that lambic beer doesn’t originate from the countryside as previously thought, but from within the confines of Brussels city walls. He believes Breughel’s 16th-century painting Peasant Wedding wrongly depicted lambic beer as being present at that time and country folk’s favoured alcoholic drink. Instead, the author purports that the brew was expertly made by the best brewers in Brussels from 1783.

Thanks to his study, descriptions have been reassessed and changed for some lambic beers, including gueuze and faro. Gueuze might have not been the sparkling bottled beer that’s known today and faro might not have been as sweet.

“Lambic beers have unmistakably undergone a transformation since their inception, and I realise that this change is not obvious to many beer lovers. But showing respect for the beer and its history can only be done by telling the story of how it really happened,” said Meert.

Owner of the Cantillon Brewery, Jean-Pierre Van Roy, 80, who has long followed Meert’s work and journey, welcomed the new publication. “Today, lambic has its own bible,” he commented.

Due to the international interest in Belgian beers, the book is published in English and will be available from 2 September at the Cantillon brewery in Anderlecht and 3 Fonteinen brewery in Lot-Berseel.

Lambic. The Untamed Brussels Beer. Origin, Evolution and Future by Raf Meert (€35)


Written by Louis Kernoa-Pascoe