Hanssens is one of the small number of Lambic blenders in Belgium. Blenders don’t actually brew their own beer. They buy freshly, spontaneously inoculated wort from one of the Lambic breweries. The beer then goes into the blender’s barrels. The blender will keep the different beers from the various breweries in their own barrels so they develop separately. When the blender is ready to actually make the final beer, they blend together various beers of various ages and brewery origins into a final product that is wholly unique.
Hanssens can trace its history back a couple of centuries as a family enterprise. Hanssens itself, at least the modern incarnation’s chosen date of origin, places its founding in 1896 when after a family quarrel with his cousin’s new husband, Bartholome Hanssens left the family brewing business, Het Hooghuys, to found his own operation. He also took all the customers with him. Het Hooghuys didn’t make it out of WWI. Today, Hanssens continues the family beer tradition under the helm of Sidy Hanssens and her husband John Matthijs. When they took over the business in 1998, they sold off the drinks business and focused solely on the blending operation forming Hanssens Artisinaal.
Both Sidy and John have a day job and spend their spare time blending lambic they’ve purchased from Boon, Girardin, & Lindeman’s. The lambics go into Pipes and Tuns owned by the Hanssens (Tuns typically run in 267 liter range while tuns are between 550-650 liters). Hanssens still operates largely as it did when Sidy’s father and grandfather were the ones making the beer. The labor is still very hands on. Sidy and John have upgraded a few things though; including better bottles, new labels, and a used aluminum mixing tank they purchased from Girardin. In fact, they were one of the first to use the newly protected and legal term “Oude Gueuze” on their label, once they actually started using labels.
Hanssens is a very small producer and only puts a few hundred hectoliters a year. They make only traditional non-sweetened, bottle fermented “Oude” style fruit lambics and gueuzes. Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Gueuze is a blend of multiple years of Lambic. The blend then goes into a bottle without added sugar or yeast where it’s corked and allowed to continue fermenting creating Gueuze’s characteristic intense carbonation.
Appearance: Gold, beige head, poor retention.
Aroma: Peach, rainier cherries, lime peel, spicy notes, earthy tones, underlying funk, sherry vinegar
Taste: Citrus, fruit, vinegar, earthy notes, a touch oily.
Overall Impression: Hanssens tends to be on the on the more sour side of the Gueuze spectrum yet maintains a round balance. This is a very elegant Gueuze with a nice balance between funky and fruity. Hanssens is one of smaller producers, but one really worth seeking out. They make some very nice lambics, especially this Gueuze.
Availability: Limited quantities with periodic releases throughout the year. Imported byB. United International.