It is a bold move for a startup brewery to brew a blended Geueze Lambic. First, it requires patience, since the style’s brewing process takes at least three years. Second, it requires knowledge of blending techniques rarely seen outside of Belgium. Third, it requires valuable fermentation space. As in quantum physics, no two beers can occupy the same barrel; nor two barrels the same dark corner of the brewhouse. And since the beer sits in large oak barrels for three years, it can mean lost opportunities for other barrel-aged beers.
Boom Island Brewing Company, which just turned three years old, hopes fortune favors the bold as they debut their first Lambic-style ale, Oude Funk, on October 2. Crafted at their Minneapolis brewery under the care of owner and head brewer Kevin Welch, it’s the first in the brewery’s Spontaneously Fermented Ale series.
Welch will be the first to humbly tell you that Oude Funk is not a Lambic, as it’s not from Lambeek nor brewed in the Pajottenland region southwest of Brussels. Still, it is brewed with a nod to the tradition of spontaneous fermentation in that region and bears many similarities to true Lambics.
The ale’s characteristic flavor comes from a blend of three-, two-, and one-year-old beers. Each batch of beer is aged in oak barrels and inoculated with yeast harvested from Belgium and Welch’s backyard in Minneapolis. The three-year-old beer has lost all its sugar, is highly acidic, and completely flat. By itself, it tastes of lemon, stone fruit, and funky cheese. The younger beers are less acidic and lean toward pear and apricot flavors.
The secret of this ale is the unique yeast Welch harvested in Belgium. When made there, unfermented beer (wort) is exposed to outside air and wild yeasts take hold of the sugar to create something unlike common commercial beer. Serendipity, blending skill, and patience are all needed to make this kind of beer drinkable. The wrong bacteria or yeast strain could ruin an entire batch, sending years of work down the literal drain.
Instead, Boom Island’s final blend is a delightful play on the senses—with an acidic, lemony nose leading to a surprisingly mellow flavor of apricot, white grapes, mild funky cheese, and sun-dried hay. Its carbonation is refined, like that of a cask ale.
Being a small brewery, only 1,234 bottles of Oude Funk were produced in this inaugural run. Starting October 5, you’ll be able to find it in 375mL bottles at select beer stores in Minnesota.
Oude Funk’s tap debut will be October 2 at Boom Island’s brewery (2014 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis). The taproom will open at 4pm; live music from William Within will start at 7pm. We recommend making a picnic of fried chicken and Belgian-style frites to pair with this Belgian beauty.