St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition - Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck

Every once in a while, I make a gamble on something unknown from a tap list.  Variety is the spice of life, after all.  Besides, I can usually take a good guess on what I’m getting into.  That’s why I was thrown for a bit of a loop when I saw this long name in the tap list, “St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition” from the “Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck” of Ingelmunster, Belgium.  Yeah, not exactly the most popular beer, style, or brewery.  I wasn’t entirely familiar with the style of Gueuzes, other than I knew they were a blend of aged and unaged lambics.  Besides all this, it was a 7oz pour at 4.5% ABV for a little under a ten-spot.  “What the heck am I getting myself into?”, I thought.  But, the thought of it stuck with me enough to check it on a couple of the beer-rating websites.  It caught a 94 and an 87 on the big two, with the breweries website promising a balance of sweet, sour, and bitter.  Ok, Belgium, you’ve won this one.  I’m getting it.

So, while my friends were getting their pint glasses and goblets, I get my little tumbler of yellowy gold.  I’m starting to get a little proud of it at this point, just out of contrast against these big dark behemoths (one of my friends had a Deschutes Black Butte Porter with an ounce of Patron XO coffee liqueur, something definitely worth trying).
The nose of this is pretty indicative of a lambic, or two in this case.  Tart sour, wild yeast, some bit of clean, golden malt.  All very strong and pungent, which I found surprising for how cold it was.  If it’s already giving off such a scent to it right out of the keg, I can only imagine what measure of taste lies ahead.  No, wait.  I don’t only have to imagine it, I can taste it.
The first taste delivers more of the same from the scent, just tart lemony tang with a bit of fruity apple tart.  It’s got a good balance between acetic and lactic sourness, but backed up well by a very light, sweet malt.  The sour isn’t so in-your face as chugging straight vinegar, like some lambics can be.  No, this sour is around the level of a fruit tart or a sorbet.  It’s there, it’s forward, but it doesn’t impact the drinkability at all.  A few tastes in you get a musty, funky, kinda brett-y character to it, mostly of in the aftertaste.  The finish leaves a bit of that sour candy dryness, but it quickly dissipates.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked this beer a ton.  It was complex, it had a ton of character to it, but there was really something to be missed with it.  Maybe it could have stood to improve by being thinned out a bit?  Maybe the aged lambic could have been a kreik?  And I’ll go ahead and make myself look like a boor, but golly there was just no alcohol to be had with this.  Do I regret my choice?  Not one bit.  As a beer (and I may be looking at it through too much of a ‘relaxation enhancer’ type drink), it may have been lacking.  As an experience, as a purely culinary lesson in complex blended aged beverage from our favorite country, Belgium?  I suppose the best litmus test for this is the fact that I will be looking for a bottle of this in my beer shops.  It was worth it, and more.