Tamamura Honten have been releasing a lot of limited beers in the last month or so – I’m having a lot of difficulty keeping up! Today’s tasting is their new limited Yama-Bushi apricot saison, and we’ll try it together with the Gueuze Tilquin a l’ancienne.
Tamamura Honten Yama-Bushi apricot saison (山伏 apricot saison)
Package: 750mL bottle
Misc: IBU – 27
Pour – Lots of foam, muddy deep reddish-orange
Aroma – Yeasty and fruity, lots of sour apricot
Flavor – Slightly fruity, very yeasty, especially on finish, also a slight bitter tartness to it, but also has a bit of an odd bruised fruit patch in the middle
Carrying on with the Tamamura-Honten Yama-Bushi series, they recently released this apricot saison. Actually, as it’s the second time that they’ve released this beer, on their blog they call it the “apricot saison II”. The first time they brewed it was the summer of 2014. According to the beer description, it’s based on their #700 / a special saison beer, which was a saison they brewed to celebrate their 700th batch. That saison is a bit darker than their usual saisons, and they also use American and German hops, which is a bit unusual for them.
On top of that base saison, they add their homegrown apricots to it. They’re quite proud of their no fertilizer, no pesticide handpicked apricot harvest, and they let said apricots soak in the saison for about 6 to 7 months. Then the beer is aged for another 6 months, before finally being packaged and bottle-conditioned until it makes its way to you!
In terms of the aroma, the apricot definitely stands out, although there’s also a lot of yeast as well. In the flavor itself I find that the apricot doesn’t hold up so well, and while there is a bit of tartness and fruitiness to it there’s also kind of a not-so-nice patch in the middle which is a big minus. The yeast is still there in the flavor, and while I think this is an OK beer (it gets better as it warms up), it’s nowhere near as good as most of their saisons. Last year’s Grand Rouge winter release berry saison was much better in my opinion, and their regular Yama-Bushi series is also superior. So not bad, but they can definitely do better.
Gueuzerie Tilquin Gueuze Tilquin à l’ancienne
Package: 750mL bottle
Pour – Cloudy bright orange, fizzy but goes away quickly
Aroma – Lots of wood, citrus as well, surprisingly some hops, also dirt
Flavor – Tartness is very present from start, then turns into a very sour acidic finish, as it warms up sourness mellows and becomes more soft fruity
We like our sour beers here at BeerEast, but this is our first opportunity to review a gueuze. For those not familiar with the style, a gueuze is a blended beer made by blending two or three lambics. If you’re wondering what a lambic is, it’s a kind of sour beer from the Brussels region that is made using spontaneous fermentation of wild yeasts and bacteria. A gueuze will blend a young (meaning about 1-year old) lambic which is not fully fermented yet with older (2 to 3 years old) lambics, and the whole thing basically then undergoes another fermentation.
Within the gueuze style there are a few variations and related beers. The traditional way of making them, with no added ingredients is now referred to as Oude Gueuze (old gueuze, in English), and is now a trademarked appellation that indicates a blended beer made from 100% lambics. Gueuzes not explicitly marked as Oude Gueuze will most likely have some other kind of sweetener in them, which many would say is a misguided effort to broaden the appeal of the beer by making it sweeter. Other variants include kriek, which is basically the same idea as gueuze but with sour cherries, and faro, which is basically blended lambics with brown sugar. Wikipedia has a nice rundown on the lambic variations here.
So that brings us to today’s brewery, which is a relatively new gueuze producer called Gueuzerie Tilquin. Established in 2009, they also claim to be the first gueuzerie in Wallonia, which is the southern French-speaking half of Belgium (gueuzes traditionally came from around the Brussels region, which is essentially a French-speaking enclave in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium). Although the brewery is still quite young, they’ve established a solid reputation already, and the Gueuze Tilquin a l’ancienne is their flagship product.
Their product page has a fair amount of detail on the makeup of the beer. A quick rundown – they blend 1, 2, and 3-year old lambics for this beer, and the lambics are fermented and aged on site using wort sourced from Cantillon, Boon, Lindemans, and Girardin. The spontaneous fermentation in the oak barrels is between 1 to 3 years, and the minimum bottle re-fermentation is 6 month (they say the average production time for a bottle is 2 and a half years!).
So is it worth the 2 and a half year wait? Fortunately, I guess we can just buy it off the shelf without waiting that long, but yes, this is a great beer. Initially it is very tart with an acidic sour finish, but as it warms up it actually rounds out quite nicely. The sourness softens a bit and turns to a tart fruitiness, and personally, as someone who really likes the sour as well, I enjoyed both phases of the beer and also appreciated the changing flavor profile.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before someone in Japan can produce beer like this, but in the meantime, Tilquin is fairly readily available. I purchased this one at Tanakaya but Tokyo Liquor Land also has their beer available, and you’ll see bottles around at Belgian beer bars around Tokyo as well. Definitely try this one – a great sour beer!