This week we take a break from Russian Imperial stouts with one of world's finest fruit lambics. The Belgian brewery Cantillon needs no introduction--they're one of the few remaining breweries to use spontaneous fermentation to create wonderfully complex sour beers. Cantillon is hands-down my favorite brewery that I've visited in all my travels.
Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise 2011
This beer is made like the other fruit lambics at Cantillon--hot wort is pumped up into the rafters of the brewery into a large shallow copper coolship to cool overnight. Louvres in the rooftop are opened and wild yeast/bacteria/etc. is allowed to settle into the cooling wort. The following day the cooled liquid is put into previously used barrels and allowed to age and ferment spontaneously over a year or more. The Rose de Gambrinus is the regular raspberry version of the beer, (and still incredible) but the Lou Pepe version has half again as many raspberries added to increase the fruit flavor. This beer scores a 100 on Rate Beer and 98 on Beer Advocate. I have also done Whale tastings for the geueze and kriek versions last year...
As usual for this Whale A Week tasting I invited over some knowledgeable friends to help out. Our cast of characters was:
Me (Eric Wentling)--BJCP National ranked beer judge, homebrewer for over 20 years, sour-head.
Kevin Meintsma--Also a beer judge, award winning homebrewer (in fact he got to brew a beer with Mike Hoops at Town Hall this past year!)
Dan Beaubien--Craft beer geek, fellow beer blogger for Beerploma.
Sarajo Wentling--My wife who gets to try all the beers because she lets me buy them...
Eric: Powerful fresh raspberry! Tart and makes my mouth water just smelling this. Light cherry notes. Toasted oak. Strawberry as it warms. No hops.
Kevin: Tart, light acidic aroma. Raspberry--moderate to high. Soft strawberry. Light woody aroma. Slight hint of yeast and musty aroma as it warms.
Dan: Crisp and clean fruity aroma. Smells like tart fruit that tickles the nose.
Eric: Excellent clarity. Bright raspberry red color. Sparkling and effervescent like champagne. Fairly large and persistent off-pink head--probably the biggest I've seen on a lambic. Very fine bubbles. Gorgeous looking beer.
Kevin: Beautiful strawberry color with cherry highlights. Superb clarity. Creamy white head.
Dan: Head with a pinkish hue dissipates rather quickly. Very appealing red fruit cherry/strawberry deep red color.
Eric: Wow! Tart up front with "I just loaded my mouth with a handful of fresh raspberries" flavor. Fades to a dry and puckering finish but not astringent. Not overly complex at first, but rounded and beautiful. Bright and makes me think of late summer in the backyard. Subtle funk and barnyard add complexity as it warms up. Cherry pit. Salivary glands working overtime. Almost thin body accentuated by dryness.
Kevin: Moderately low acidity, tart. Raspberry is mild by obvious. No hops, bitterness is from acid. No malt. Very clean, character is wine-like--similar to a Chenin Blanc. Light raspberry and cherry notes in the finish. Light body. Effervescent with a carbonic bite. Very dry. Not astringent or tannic.
Dan: Delicate tartness. Not as sweet as it smells. Dryness is more at the end of the sip--really got me salivating. Sour morphs into sweet, then to a tart vinous finish. Very complex and delicious. Mouthfeel is thin and not as effervescent as thought it would be--maybe that is the fruit?
Eric: Raspberry is really dominant in this, covering some of the classic Cantillon funk flavors and aromas--but that is just fine! I could keep drinking this all day if I could afford to get that much of it! I do like the Lou Pepe Kriek more but this one is still stellar. Increased complexity as it warms. 5
Kevin: Refreshing, delightful. Wonderfully complex for such a light beer. One of my favorite beers of all time. Amazing for a 4 year old blended beer. Would pair well with a soft creamy cheese. 4.75 (to get to a 5 I would reduce acidity slightly.)
Dan: First time having it and it definitely lives up to its reputation. 4.5
Sarajo: Tastes like Brussels! 5
Overall Score: 4.81