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Hello Sour Beer Friends!

Armand 4 Zomer & Golden Blend Gueuze

Living in Pennsylvania, the warm weather of summer brings upon my favorite activities of the year.  Barbeques, kayaking, yard games, and pool parties are in full swing by June 21st, the longest day of the year and the first official day of summer.  This year, June 21st also coincided with our opening of the next bottle in the Drie Fonteinen Armand 4 Seasons series: Armand 4 Zomer.  While drinking the Zomer, Cale Baker, Carlo Palumbo, and myself also poured a bottle of Drie Fonteinen Golden Blend Gueuze in order to compare the two beers side-by-side.  By the way, Cale is the newest contributor here at Sour Beer Blog, check out his first review of Russian River Temptation!

The Armand 4 Seasons series of gueuzes was created to help fund the purchase of a new brewing system for the production of lambic wort after a thermostat failure resulted in the loss of thousands of bottles of gueuze and other lambics which were conditioning for sale.  The catastrophe plunged Drie Fonteinen into financial hardship and forced Armand Debelder to sell his former brewing equipment.  Luckily, in recent years the iconic lambic brewery and blendery is back on its feet thanks to special projects such as the Armand 4 Seasons and loyal support from fans of high quality lambics around the world.










When we poured the two gueuzes, an immediate difference was apparent in their coloration.  The Armand 4 Zomer poured a deep coppery orange color with a thick layer of yellow/tan head.  The Golden Blend Gueuze poured a lighter golden color with a thick white head.  Both gueuzes are fairly clear with a mild haze.  The aromas coming off of the Zomer were intense: sulphur and apricots, pitty peach cores, and a distinct aroma of hay-like / grassy aged (cheesy) hops were all first to be noted.  Digging a little deeper we could detect lactic aroma, clementines, a light butteriness, and the smell of ozone and musty basement.  The funkier aromas coming off of Zomer reminded us of a box of old wet magazines and walking through the forest before a rainstorm.

Armand 4 ZomerThe Golden Blend Gueuze had a distinctive metallic / coppery note in its aroma.  We could smell fruity sweetness like those of gummy bears.  There were a variety of fruit-like aromas present with this blend, including cantaloupe and peaches, watermelon rind, and white wine.  Digging deeper there were light aromas of dried fruits like raisins and prunes.  The Golden Blend did not have the intensely musty or grassy aromas present in the Zomer.

When drinking the Zomer gueuze, we found it to be strongly sour but slightly less-so than the Golden Blend.  Both gueuzes have a souring profile of clean lactic acid and other soft organic acids.  We could not detect any acetic acid (vinegar) in either of the blends.  The Zomer had a metallic twang in its flavor profile.  Zomer was creamier and softer in its flavor profile than our memory of the Armand 4 Lente or the Golden Blend which we were drinking side-by-side.   There is a distinct hop bitterness and flavor in the Zomer.  The hops provide a floral and herbal note to the flavor profile and the hop bitterness carries through into the aftertaste along with the distinctive souring.

Drie Fonteinen Golden Blend Gueuze

The Zomer gueuze has flavors of stone-fruit and a slight mineral flavor like chalk.  There is a fairly high oak presence in Zomer’s flavor profile that reminded us of certain Russian River sours like Temptation and Supplication.  Zomer’s body was medium with a high level of carbonation.  We were very impressed with the head retention of Zomer, 30 minutes into our tasting our glasses with this gueuze still retained a creamy layer of foam.

When tasting the Golden Blend, we found it to be a very sour gueuze with a sharper bitterness than the Zomer.  The Golden Blend was much fruitier as well, both in the aroma and flavor profiles, with distinctive flavors of mango, pineapple, and tropical fruit punch being produced by the Brettanomyces in this beer.  The bitterness in Golden Blend seems to be the product of more tannic grain astringency while the bitterness in Zomer was a product of the hops and was somewhat less sharp.  In the Golden Blend Gueuze, the bitterness reminded us of the pith from an orange peel.  We could also detect the aroma and flavor of circus peanut candies in this blend.  The body of the Golden Blend was low to medium with a high level of carbonation, resulting in a thinner mouthfeel when compared to the more creamy Zomer.

Armand 4 Zomer & Golden Blend GueuzeWhen painting in broad strokes, an overall comparison of the two gueuzes would describe the Armand 4 Zomer as medium to high in sourness with a distinct hop flavor and soft bitterness, musty and funky Brettanomyces characteristics, and a creamy mouthfeel that carries into a smoother finish.  In contrast, the Golden Blend Gueuze has a high sourness, a grainy astringency yielding a sharper bitterness, tropical fruit Brettanomyces characteristics, and a thinner mouthfeel with wine-like tannins that produce a crisp dry finish.  Both gueuzes are delicious, well balanced, and would be considered world-class examples of the style.

Just like the Armand 4 Lente, it was a pleasure drinking the Zomer blend from this series.  Thus far, each of the Armand 4 gueuzes have surprised us with how distinctively different they taste from other commercial examples of the style as well as differing substantially from the typical Drie Fonteinen gueuze blends.  While it may be a bit esoteric, we have also been impressed with how each gueuze blend seems to match certain aspects of the season for which it is named.  The Armand 4 Lente had aromas of freshly cut grass  and kerosene which reminded us of the first days of spring when people begin tending their yards or farmlands.  The Armand 4 Zomer had aromas of musty earth and ozone which gave a distinct reminder of walking through a forest shortly before a thunderstorm after a hot and humid summer day.

This is not a bottle to pass up if you are a gueuze fan!  It is unlikely that the unique flavors in these blends will ever be recreated.  While hard to find, this would be an excellent bottle to split between a group of sour beer friends!