Session 61: Lambic in the UK?!

The start of the 6th year of #TheSession is in the capable hands of Hoosier Beer Geek. He asks us to talk about why local beer is important, specifically what makes it better?

Did anyone ever imagine there would be a lambic blender operating within the UK? Well sour-head Alan Ross and friend Olly Neill have become those people, organising almost single-handedly a trip to Belgium to source some lambic, some wine barrels and ordering the rest of the paraphernalia required to bottle your wares.

Alan investigates the remaining aroma
I was given a tour of "the cellar" this weekend. This first trial batch was made in the garage of Alan's very understanding parents. The barrel itself takes up a fair amount of space, not to mention a third of a pallet of champagne bottles!
Beery explosion!
The lambic he sourced was a jonge Giradin, a coup for him as lambic producers are notoriously secretive; "They were extremely helpful when they realised what it was we were wanting to do, that is to create what a lot of the pubs were doing back in the 1920's and blending their own." They decided to make "Shot in the Dark" a fruit lambic not unlike a kriek, with the twist being that he used locally grown blackberries! Why the evocative name? The picture to the left should explain all! For some demonstration videos and another great write-up see here.
Bottle conditioned as taken by Alan
The beer was put on 60kg fruit in September and I was lucky enough to taste it in November, then again 6 weeks later against the base beer ."There will only be about 50 bottles sold from this batch, but that's because I plan to drink the rest!" It's a lovely pink-purple number with a fresh lemony and lactic horse blanket nose. Sweet blackberry start (subtle fruit) mouth. Sour and bretty finish begs you to take another sip and all too soon your glass is empty. Forgive the abrupt notes but this is a beer for enjoying not analysing.

In comparison the Giradin jonge lambic is bright orange and much more highly funky on the nose. I think its perhaps my first straight lambic and wasn't expecting it to be so still. The hay and brett flavours I'm expecting are there and a slightly tart finish from the beginnings of time spent in the wood. I can see why gueuze producers have to blend a few vintages to get the beer they desire.

Not one to rest on his laurels Alan has sourced warehouse space to make multiple beers at the same time and avoid the mishaps of exploding beer in the house again. He will obtain a brewing licence and register the company officially when the council has declared the premises fit.

Just a few of the many bottles lying about
Plans are already afoot for all manner of other blends, hoping to focus on showcasing local fruits if possible. "I'm able to source green goosberries, red gooseberries and white goosberries so that could be interesting. I'd love to make a lychee lambic too, though of course they'd be impossible to source in the UK!" A gueuze could also be in the offing, though this requires much more forward planning and potentially visiting three suppliers.

However it's not just lambic that Alan and Oli have their sights set on. Alan plans to brew some saisons as a cuckoo brewer on local brewery Clanconnel's new brew plant (more on this in a later post I hope!) They'll be based on iterations of that classic saison dupont, with a Bretty twist. Initially three different versions to see which works best. I'm hoping I can go along to help out on brew day as it sounds like it'll be great fun (as will be the tasting!)

So to answer the question posed at the beginning, this local beer is better as it involves cross-country collaborations, cuckoo brewing, local fruit producers and a whole host of other people and ain't too shabby either.


  1. Exciting! Thanks for giving us a peek at the project.

  2. This has me salivating - as it did when I read about it on the Belgian Beer Board. If I can stick my neck out, this is perhaps the most exciting development in the UK beer scene for a very long time (and I'm not normally given to hyperbole).

    With only 50 bottles due to be released I guess it will be difficult to source and expensive - no matter - do you know when and how it might be possible to obtain this at all?

  3. Wow! this is an exciting project! it had my sucking my cheeks in at the thought of a Gooseberry Lambic :)
    Great piece Steve and pass on my best to Alan as he takes this forward.

  4. Imported fresh lychees shouldn't hard to source, even in N.I. - they're frequently on sale in Brum, just check out Chinese stores or ask Chinese restaurants that serve them as dessert, where they source them from. I know years ago, the Welcome Chinese Restaurant, just up Stranmillis Rd from the Museum, had a fresh (not tinned) lychee fruit salad dessert. I appreciate he is hoping to showcase local fruit, but if he thinks the flavours would work, then it would be worth a go with imported fruit anyway.

    Very interesting post, wish I was sampling some - where is he planning to be selling the 50 bottles from?

  5. @TBN If you'd been at belfast on the friday you could have shared a drop. Reuben got some. I have a bottle left which I'll open on 17th this month i expect.

    @John...I think Alan has pretty much sent out the one's he'd planned to, but at least you know what to look for next year

    @David I think it would be ace if he did all three gooseberry lambics to compare the different flavours!

    @tania Yes, he's got a source for them but he likes the idea of using local suppliers for quality control and lower transport miles. I reckon its still one he'll try in the long run. Hopefully he'll comment here later to update everyone!

    The 50 bottles will be sold from an ex-employers premises as he already has a license for alcohol sale. A number of bottles are also being given to the lambic suppliers by way of thanks and to show what their lambic has become

    I've been sitting on this story since november until I got some more details. From now on I'll update people whenever anything important happens!

  6. Sounds like awesome stuff, although it might well be an argument in favour of the 'local' concept being complete twaddle! ;)

  7. Very Interesting project, were looking forward to it. Cheers!