Brouwerij Timmermans lays claim to the title of “The World’s Oldest Lambic Brewery.” Founded in 1702, the brewery that would eventually be inherited by the Timmermans family through marriage has a long and continuous history. Records from the 18th century describe the beer as a “brown” beer brewed with wheat and barley. A brewery equipment inventory also listed a coolship as the source of fermentation. The final piece of the Lambic puzzles falls into place with the information that the early brewery only brewed during the cold and cool months to avoid too much bacterial interference.
All of these things indicate that this brewery was making a proto-Lambic style beer. The darker color would be an indication of poorer malting process in which the barley was dried to a darker level than is used to day, or it could have been intentional. Either way, it was a spontaneously fermented beer using wheat which matches up with the definition of a Lambic.
During the last half of the 20th century, Timmermans had pretty much focused on producing sweetened Lambics blended with a variety of different fruits. Although, they still provided base Lambic for other Geuze blenders to use. This began to change when Timmermans became part of the John Martin brewery group in 1993. In the mid 2000’s, they began to reintroduce a traditional Oude Geuze and an Oude Kriek on a seasonal basis. They are still only available, at least in the US, on a seasonal basis.
If you travel to Belgium, you can try Timmermans beers at A La Becasse, currently the only cafe that gets Lambic directly from Timmermans. I had the chance to visit this great cafe on my trip to Belgium last year. It’s down a set of stairs and sits inside a richly appointed basement. They serve their various Lambic concoctions, such as Lambic mixed with a Belgian wit/blanch, in a stoneware jugs. The Lambic/Geuze menu is quite impressive as well. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in Bruxelles Grand Place.
Appearance: Hazy Blonde, white head, good retention.
Aroma: Damp wood, earthiness, tart apples (not green apples), light “sweaty” funk, light lemon rind notes.
Taste: Lemon rind, spicy apple finish with an exciting acidity.
Overall Impression: This one has a crisp & sharp tartness, with lively carbonation. Compared to other Geuzes, it’s not nearly as complex and the carbonation is a bit rough. However, this is a new program at Timmermans. It’s a really great effort for only a few years and one that will continue to improve over time. If you’d like to read more about the consultant who’s working with Timmermans, here’s a nice article from Belgium Beer Tourism.
Availability: Available during the Summer, imported by Belukus Marketing.