This year’s Lambic Award, offered by the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (Horal) has been awarded to an American-based website which catalogues the typically Belgian beers lambic, geuze and kriek.
The annual award goes to volunteer-run website Lambic.info.
Lambic is the beer made uniquely in the valley of the Senne river in and around Brussels, a sour beer created by spontaneous fermentation: no yeast is added at any point. Instead, the barley is boiled and the resulting brew exposed to the air, which contains wild yeasts and other organisms native to the area, which allow the beer to ferment and which give it its distinctive sharp, refreshing flavour.
Lambic, as the original brew is called, was once ubiquitous in the area; now it is more likely to be found in the form of geuze, a blend of young and older lambic, or kriek – lambic in which cherries have been macerated. Other variants, such as peach and cassis, also exist.
Lambic.info was created in 2015 by Bill Young from Colorado and his friend Adam Harbaugh from Montana. Both men had developed a love for lambic-based beers while visiting beer festivals in Europe, but found information on the subject to be sketchy and difficult to pin down.
“In my search for accurate information, I found out that it was ‘a bit everywhere and nowhere’,” Young explained. “At the same time, my friend Adam Harbaugh, a Montana-based French teacher, was doing research about the history and culture of the lambic beer industry through numerous written sources. The project took a better form after we attended the Toer de Geuze in 2013. To keep all information easily up-to-date, we chose to use a wiki format.”
The Toer de Geuze is organised annually by geuze producers, all of whom are based in the part of Flanders known as Pajottenland, with two exceptions: Pierre Tilquin is a blender based in Rebecq in Wallonia, while Cantillon is a brewery based in Anderlecht inside the Brussels region.
“So we are now 7 people along with a large online community of contributors,” Harbaugh goes on. “The main drive for this project was and still is to collect as much accurate information about the lambic culture and the region where these beers are produced into one place so that people can learn about it.”
The website and its creators were praised by Horal president Gert Christiaens, who was responsible for reviving the Oud Beersel lambic brewery after it closed down, depriving him of one of his favourite brews. His response was to take over the brewery and figure out how it worked. He has since then won numerous awards for his beers.
“Lambic.info bundles an incredible amount of information about our lambic culture in a well-organised way. For example, if you want to know more about products of present and past breweries and blenderies, then you should definitely have a look at this website,” he said. “At present, the website contains more than 500 pages and 3,500 photos ranging from beer labels, bottles, and other breweriana to historical and current pictures of lambic breweries and geuze blenderies. The editorial team has even put an extensive bibliography online. A real titanic job!”