Sunday, 3 October 2021

Cantillon Gueuze

Origin: Belgium | Dates: 2016 & 2021 | ABV: 5.5% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007

Not all beers improve with age. The strong and dark ones get the best press, which is fair enough, but vintage gueze is also revered. It's a phenomenon about which I am sceptical. I like the clean zest of young gueze and am not at all convinced that letting it age out is necessarily a good idea. Luckily, I have this blog for the testing of opinions like this and today I'm tasting the difference blind.

The field of play is two bottles of Cantillon Gueuze, one bottled in March 2016 and one bottled five years and two days later. The cork of the vintage one was saturated in beer but hadn't turned mouldy, as sometimes happens. Feature one of age is fizz, with the older edition much more foamy on pouring. With that comes sediment: the one that turned out to be the 2016 was much cloudier than the 2021, which was a bright amber-gold.

I was on the lookout for that zest effect, and the 2021 had lots of it in its aroma, all fresh and zingy lemon spritz. The older one smells funkier, with a more pronounced earthy aroma, hinting a little at blue cheese. Both are excellent but, as mentioned, my taste runs more to the zest.

The difference between them is not as apparent on tasting. The 2016 is smooth with notes of old oak and a waxy bitterness. The gunpowder and black pepper spicing arrives late. I found the younger version to be sharper, with an almost vinegar tang in the foretaste. The zest is present but not as prominent as I noticed in the aroma. It's still very very good, but less complex than the matured one, and complexity beats zest, for me. The spices in particular are missing and I wonder if that's something that comes with the sediment build-up. Even down in the dregs of the 2021 bottle there was a tasty nitric sharpness but not much spice.

I have learned a lesson here: geuze is very much worth ageing. I'm sure there's an upper limit on that -- the brewery suggests 20 years. I'll see how far I get with my last bottle of 2016.

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