On the heels of our two previous blind Lambic and American Wild Ale bottle shares, we’ve returned for another foray into the ancient AMLAM/BELAM battle for supremacy. Two years ago we held our first, an un-fruited gueuze/AWA event, Cruisin for a Geuzin. It had some unexpected results and Cuvee Rene came in first. The bottle share was inspired by a few questions. Is Lambic truly better than great American Wild Ales? In a blind setting, could tasters tell the difference? And of the Lambic available, did hype and reputation really equal better taste?
We returned last year to replicate our blind share model with kriek and cherry beers. Again, we found some unexpected results with Timmerman’s Oude Kriek Lambicus besting the field. For some reason the next logical port for our blind shares turned to raspberry.
We considered a few options before arriving at raspberry, including stone fruit (peach, apricot, nectarine, plum,) grape, and revisiting a un-fruited field before deciding there was enough raspberry Belgians to make it interesting.
To qualify the bottle submitted needed to meet these conditions
- Style should originate as geuze/lambic or American Wild Ale. Saisons also welcome
- Flanders style, oud bruins, goses, and berliners are not permitted
- Raspberry should be the primary fruit or adjunct. However to fill out the field and have better Belgian representation we did allow the predominantly raspberry Hommage in, as well as De Cam Framboise Vlier. We also included a black raspberry from Side Project, Fencerow
- Sweetened lambic was permitted, only due to their being so few unsweetened Belgian options
- Each submission should be at least 750ml. Submission may be 2x 375s
With that out of the way, you’ll find the final rankings below. Tasters were instructed to use an Untappd 0-5 rating. Ratings were averaged and normalized from the blind ratings from 16 tasters that ranged from Certified Cicerone to people that like sour beers but have no preference for Belgian v. American. Tasters could also guess what beer they were drinking from the list of bottle entrants.
Whether the results were averaged, summed, or we took the median, the result was mostly the same except for a small jostle of the #2-5 beers. Tasting took about 4.5 hours from the first bottle to the finish.
No Surprises here
After our first two Cruises were shelf lambic beat bottles worth hundreds on the secondary, we were ready for anything, but this share provided no bombshell winner, as Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise 2015 sticker won decisively. Following that was basically a 3 way tie. This included a great vintage of Drie Fonteinen Framboos, 2014. Once upon a time that beer was largely still, but this one had some nice carbonation. Rose de Gambrinus 2018 was next, followed by the highest American bottle on the list, from De Garde The Framboise.
Facts and Observations
- Oud Beersel Framboise was atrocious. We picked it up Saturday morning off the shelf at Binny’s in Chicago. It had a best consumed date of April 2019. It was neither sweet, acidic, or fruit forward. It was just bland. Apparently what 4-5 years on a retail shelf can do to a beer
- As in the first unfruited Cruise, Upland snuck into the Top 10 with a raspberry bottle from 2015. Tasting notes included “Very solid Belgian lambic” and was guessed as lambic by over half the field.
- One of the bigger surprises was Chicago local Une Annee Framboise finishing #12 over a few very good Belgian bottles. Une Annee’s beer is on shelves most of the year and this proved it’s a good value for their 16oz cans.
- The top 10 included 3 total AmLam bottles from De Garde, Modern Times, and Upland. Up a Kriek only had 2, which De Garde was also a part of.
- The beer most accurately guessed correctly was Lindeman’s Framboise with 9 people correctly guessing. Multiple beers were not correctly guessed at all.
- The most correct guesses of beers by the 16 tasters was 5, by 3 different people. Only 1 person got zero correct. 12 out of 16 got at least 3 correct.
- The highest accuracy of identifying Belgian vs. AmLam was 19 correct guesses.