Old gueuze is often called the champagne of beers; like champagne it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle which gives it its typical carbonation and head. Put it in a half champagne bottle with a striking art nouveau label as is the case with Cuvee Rene and you could fool a lot of people that it actually is champagne. As the brewery, Lindemans, states, ‘a noble bottle for a noble beer’, but the tradition actually dates back to the times when lambic brewers would collect empty champagne bottles to reuse for their beers.
Cuvee Rene is a classic old gueuze, voted the world’s best at the World Beer Awards in 2013. It is a blend of one third at least 2 year old lambic with two thirds new lambic that is at least one year old. The latter allows it to continue fermenting in the bottle.
The similarity with champagne stops when one opens the bottle; no popping corks and the golden colour and white foamy head are definitely more beer than wine. The aroma leaves no doubt; farmyard and musty basement together with cider apples and some peach. The beer is well carbonated and fresh with an immediate citrus/ sour element that quickly moves into tart apple green cider. The musty/farmyard element compliments the whole and leads to a pleasant hint of peach/nectarine. A hint of bitterness from the aged hop flowers, the lingering cider taste and carbonation combine to give a medium lasting, dry finish. With a modest 5,5% alc. Vol. a beer that is not only refreshing (at 5 degrees) but allows you to contemplate a second.
PS: Interesting fact: gueuze is supposed to have a strong diuretic effect. This is alluded to in ‘Asterix in Belgium’ where it is suggested that the Manneken Pis might secretly drink the beer.