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.
3 Fonteinen Oude Kriek is made by adding cherries, pits and all, into young Lambic and allowing it to ferment in the barrel for another 6-8 months. It’s then bottled where it bottle conditions for 4 more months before being released to the market.
Appearance: Murky plum red, pink head, ok retention.
Aroma: Cherry, vanilla, almonds, lemon, funky notes, citrus peel, currants, fruity, citrus.
Taste: Cherry, lemon zest, ruby grapefruit juice, almonds, vanilla.
Overall Impression: The cherry pit aromas are quite strong compared to some other krieks which adds a very intriguing depth to 3 Fonteinen’s version. While it is obviously a nicely tart beer, it still has a great level of balance for the style. This is a very fruit forward Lambic with only hints of its funkier side. It possesses a great deal of depth and flavor. Truly a classic Oude Kriek
Availability: Highly limited, imported by Shelton Brothers.
Note: This beer was sent to me by my friend and Belgian Beer Blogger, Belgian Beer Geek.
I really enjoyed the history of 3 Fonteinen brewery. All of it was new to me. Thanks for another informative review.
Thanks! I think background information is probably just as important if not more important than the tasting notes. The “why”and “who” are a huge part of why people drink craft beer.
When it comes to Oude Kriek and Oude Geuze, those of 3Fonteinen are one of my favorite ones. And he actually is brewing again. I think they started brewing again as from end of 2013 so they’ll be using their own wort again for a part.
That’s why I usually like to drink the “house” or mainline beers from breweries. That way I can find out what they’re like on a day to day drinking basis before venturing into their “special” beers. And 3 Fonteinen is certainly outstanding on their basics!