3 Fonteinen is one of the classic Geuze blenders of Belgium. Their Geuzes and Lambics are highly sought after by sour beer fans the world over, obtaining cult status and fetching high prices on the gray market. Since 1953, the Debelder family has owned “De Drie Fonteinen” in Beersel, a small inn and Geuze blending operation. Gaston Debelder had been looking for a way to earn a living when he left his small family farm to his brother. Once he learned how to blend Geuze, his beers quickly became very popular with his guests.
The Debelders grew and renovated their business until they decided it was time to pass it on to their sons in 1982, Armand and Guido, although Gaston still stopped by from time to time to provide advice. Armand, who had studied cooking, quickly showed his talent and interest in blending while his brother took over the inn. By 1990, the brothers were considering giving up the blending because the popularity of Geuze and Lambic were at their lowest point. Fortunately, they decided to stay in the business, for which we’re all grateful!
As a blender, Armand buys wort from other brewers that has been inoculated in their coolships. He buys from Boon, Lindemans, and Girardin. In addition to this, starting in 1999, 3 Fonteinen is brewing small quantities of their own beer to add to the mix. It was this beer that helped save the business from disaster when a hot air blower with a faulty thermostat didn’t shut off in May 2009.
Armand entered his cellar to discover over 5,000 bottles had burst/broke and another 80,000 were rendered undrinkable. To add insult to injury, the lease on his brewing equipment came up and due to the disaster he wasn’t able to renew it so it was sold out from under him. Fortunately, there was enough beer left that he’d brew to bottle some 17,000 bottles of estate Geuze which he could sell to raise funds. Additionally, he turned lemons into lemonade. Or more accurately, he decided to distill the 80,000 bad bottles and turned them into Armands Spirit.
Appearance: Light gold, hazy, off-white head, solid head retention.
Aroma: funk, lime zest, earthy, mushrooms, dirty straw, Meyer lemon.
Taste: Lemon/lime, Meyer lemon, spicy/funky finish. Tart/lightly sour.
Overall Impression: 3 Fonteinen Oude Geuze strikes a nice balance between citrusy acidity and Brettanomyces funk. It’s well carbonated with a spritzy/creamy mouthfeel that contributes to the liveliness of the beer. 3 Fonteinen is regarded as one of the elite Geuzes with good reason. If you see some, jump on the opportunity to try this exceptional beer. It will also contribute some funds to the brewery’s coffers as they continue to rebuild from the disaster of ’09.
Availability: Highly limited, imported by Shelton Brothers.
Note: Bottled 5/12/12 (May 5, 2012)