A jewel more than a tradition

Lambic beers, or rather Timmermans’ lambics, are part of a three-hundred-year Belgian tradition. Put simply, Timmermans is the oldest Belgian lambic brewery still operating. For more than three hundred years, Timmermans’ speciality has been lambic beer in all its varieties: Oude Gueuze and Oude Kriek, Faro, Blanche Lambicus, Kriek, Framboise (raspberry) and other fruit beers. Timmermans has always used a spontaneous fermentation method applied by only six breweries worldwide, all of them located in and around Brussels. Today, Timmermans produces world-famous fruit and traditional beers sold all around the world. In the heart of Pajottenland, nicknamed the Tuscany of the North, the brewery benefits from conditions found nowhere else on Earth to create its nectar - rare wild yeasts in the air: Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and Brettanomyces Lambicus. These are present in unique concentrations in this small region just south-west of Brussels. The brews are left uncovered in Itterbeek in order to capture these natural yeasts.The origins of lambic Lambic is Timmermans’s historic and top speciality. Back in the fifteenth century, it was the popular beer that inns used to serve in jugs. It is brewed with a minimum of 30% wheat and 70% malt, but Timmermans has shifted this balance to 35% and 65% respectively, to give the beer more roundness and a stronger taste. Hot water is then added to these cereals to take this mixture to two key temperatures: first 63 °C, then 73 °C. This temperature interplay breaks down the starch molecules to make them edible for the yeast.Next, we move to the filtration vat, where the wort is separated from the spent grain. The liquid is then brought to the boil, and it is at this stage that hops aged for three or four years are added to ensure that the beer keeps while also avoiding any undesired bitterness. The brew is then poured into a cooling vat to allow the beer to form as the yeasts are immersed in the wort and absorb the sugar in order to turn it into alcohol. The process of brewing lambic lasts from September until May because that is when these micro-organisms are in ideal concentrations and the presence of bad bacteria is limited by the low air temperature. These wild yeasts work extremely slowly, and their differing concentrations in the air give each brew its unique personality.The next step is to ferment the wort in oak barrels. In the trade, the different sizes each have a name: barriques for 200-litre barrels, pipes for 650-litre barrels and foudres for 4,000 litre and 6,000 litre barrels. You need to allow nine months’ fermentation for a young lambic and three years for an old lambic. Young lambic is a milder and lighter beer which, according to experts, is similar in taste and colour to porto fino (also fermented using wild yeasts). Old lambic, which has a higher alcohol content, also has a more woody taste.From lambic to Oude Gueuze The blending of young lambic and old lambic is also a speciality of Timmermans. One part young to two parts old enables a second fermentation to take place in the bottle, and that’s the recipe for Oude Gueuze. The young lambic enables a second fermentation to take place in the bottle, giving it its natural head, while the old lambic ensures the specific woody taste. Oude Gueuze can keep for more than 20 years. To make Oude Kriek, another protected designation, we add 300-400 grams of cherries per litre to a blend of three parts old lambic to one part of a spontaneous younger generation, leaving it to soak for a minimum of eight months. Oude Kriek can also keep for more than 12 years.Dom Perignon, Faro and KriekWhen glass bottles first appeared in the nineteenth century, Timmermans drew its inspiration for the appearance of its receptacle from a certain Dom Perignon. Faro is the traditional lambic recipe. It is made from the second draw of the wort, when the spent grain is separated. This wort is lighter, and brewers add candy sugar to it after fermentation to give it its characteristic colour and enhance the taste. Created by chance, the recipe for Kriek traditionally used many local resources, such as Schaerbeek cherries, which are fairly sour. The story goes that a local mayoral candidate wanted to make a fool of his rival on the eve of an electoral rally. That night, he slipped a large quantity of sour cherries into his competitor’s beer barrels to make the beer undrinkable. His rival, considering the taste surprising but not unsafe, served this acidic beer to the electors, who voted overwhelmingly for both this original candidate and the beer he had invented. To sweeten this beer to suit individual tastes, cafés even used to provide a small utensil, called a stoemper, to crush a lump of sugar in the bottom of the glass. Fruit is generally high in sugar, which is why we use 300-400 grams per litre of a more sour variety of cherries, Morello cherries, to make our Kriek. These days, the cherries no longer come from Schaerbeek. The fruit beers produced by Timmermans are Kriek, Fraise (strawberry), Framboise (raspberry) and Pêche (peach).