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Hello Sour Beer Friends!

Gueuze Fond TraditionFollowing up my recent review of Goose Island’s barrel aged blackberry sour, Juliet, I would like to share with you another very nice sour beer I drank last Friday night.  St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition is a lambic gueuze produced by the Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck.  In 1986, the Van Honsebrouck family (who have been brewing beer in Belgium since the early 1800’s) purchased a historic castle in the town of Ingelmunster, Belgium (located in the province of West Flanders) and began producing Kasteelbier Donker (a Belgian Quad).  Over the past 30 years, the family has expanded their line of products to include a number of varieties of Belgian beer including the Oud Bruin Bacchus (a sour brown ale) and the St. Louis line of sweetened fruit lambics.  In this lineup their Gueuze Fond Tradition stands alone as their only lambic product which is blended without sweetener, remaining true to the classic gueuze style.  According to their marketing, the gueuze is produced in a traditional sense from a blend of old and young lambics and has been marketed toward “connoisseurs”.

Gueuze Fond Tradition pours a clear to slightly hazy golden color with a moderate level of off-white head.  This beer has quite the aroma, with a strong lemony lactic acid smell, it’s obvious that you’re about to drink something sour.  Also very present in the aroma are layers of bleu cheese, hay, and leather, with more subtle notes of ozone.

When drinking this gueuze, I was greeted with a moderate level of lactic sourness, on par with that of strong unsweetened lemonade or unflavored Greek yogurt.  There is no detectable acetic acid (vinegar).  I could taste a pleasant graininess and wheat malt backbone along with a bit of grassy, somewhat stale hop character.  There are several nice Brettanomyces flavors present in this gueuze.  While I couldn’t detect much in the barnyard / horse stable department, there are definite notes of leather and sourdough, along with little hints of bleu cheese and mousiness.  The beer has a light metallic flavor with high carbonation and a medium body.

Castle Brewery Gueuze Fond TraditionGueuze Fond Tradition tastes like it is made using a fairly soft water source.  The beer is dry and well attenuated but does not have any noticeable tannic astringency which can be found in the finish of some lambics.  When drinking this gueuze, the sourness hits your palate right at the beginning of the sip and then takes a backseat to the more rounded flavors of Brettanomyces and cereal grains that come through in the finish.  Like all proper gueuzes, Fond Tradition is dry and refreshing, leaving the drinker ready for more at the end of each sip.

Overall, I think Gueuze Fond Tradition is a solid example of the style which becomes even more impressive given its price point, which is generally between $6-8 USD per bottle.  Additionally, I think this is a nice gueuze for beginning sour beer drinkers to try, because while it provides a moderate level of acidity and Brettanomyces character, it also retains some recognizable malt and hop flavors.  In terms of Brettanomyces flavors, Gueuze Fond Tradition introduces a drinker to some of the more relatable examples (Leather and Hay), before they dive head first off of the funk-cliff with products like Drie Fonteinen and Hanssens Oude Gueuze.  If you’re new to the lambic styles, or if you’ve been passing over these bottles because you assumed a $6 gueuze couldn’t be good, then do yourself a favor and try Gueuze Fond Tradition.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.