Mort Subite (sudden death) owes its name to the famous bar near to the law courts in Brussels. As the story goes the lawyers and clerks who frequented the bar liked to play cards and dice and when the court bell rang to summon them back to work, the sudden death rule came into play to determine the winner.
Alternatively, some suggest it may also have referred to the staggering speed at which money could be lost by illegal trading.
Whatever, the name Mort Subite caught on with the locals and the then owner of the bar, Theophile Vossen, changed the name from ‘La Cour Royale’ to ‘A la Mort Subite’.
Some of the blended gueuze sold at the bar came from the De Keersmaeker brewery who later took over the name and used it for their own Den Hert Geuze. And that was the start of Mort Subite as we know it today. In 2000 Alken Maes completed the full takeover of De Keersmaeker and since 2008 they have been part of the Heineken group. No wonder that the beer is so widely available.
Mort Subite original gueuze has a strength of 4.5 alc, vol., has a malt and wheat base and undergoes a slow spontaneous fermenation in oak barrels. Matches up, then, to the ‘original’ on the label. But for such a mass selling brand from one of the world’s biggest breweries can it hold its head up against Cantillon or Drei Fonteinen?
It looks good in the glass; white frothy head and clear (filtered) amber gold colour. Slight barnyard aroma and sourness from the yeast, otherwise fairly neutral. The sour note , naturally , comes first with the taste only to be knocked out (if not completely for the count) by a candy sweetness.
The malt tries hard but never quite manages to move up front and the overall impression is of a sanitised nature. The follow through is sweet with malt. The low carbonation and absence of reduced acidity make it easy and unchallenging to drink. Stick with the Drei Fonteinen or Cantillon if you really want an original experience.
Happy beer drinking!
PS: A well known Brussels hospital once placed Mort Subite gueuze at the top of a list of beers on offer to patients; an appropriate place to order sudden death?