Two years ago Belgium’s finance minister Koen Geens was present at the laying of the first stone in a new extension of the Lindemans brewery in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, smack in the middle of that magical corridor in the Pajottenland outside of Brussels where the conditions are perfect for the making of lambic beer.
Last month Geens was the guest of honour at Lindemans again, this time to take a sabre and make a faultless first attempt to uncork a bottle of a new beer, brewed to make the occasion of the completion of the extension project.
The new premises take up part of the original farmhouse which has stood on this site since the Lindemans family started brewing in 1822, but the project is thoroughly modern. The new installations represent no less than a doubling of Lindemans’ capacity, from 86,000 hectolitres in 2013 to 170,000 HL in 2015, with an increase in the workforce from 18 full-time jobs to 32.
Total budget for the project was €15 million, which includes a new bottling line; new packaging and storage capacity; the planting of an orchard and the installation of a pond, a 400-metre hedgerow and one hectare of woodland for environmental compensation; rational energy and water consumption. Last but not least, a new visitor’s centre and tasting room, where cousins Dirk and Geert Lindemans presented a celebratory beer, the Cuvée René Special Blend, made in a limited edition of only 150,000 bottles of 75cl. The blend brings together a young lambic aged one year with a lambic brewed in 2010 and aged for five years.
The sabre was to allow minister Geens, now in charge of justice, to demonstrate his unsuspected prowess. Unfortunately his perfect swordsmanship will go forever undocumented, after Luc Deconinck, mayor of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, managed to decapitate his bottle in much more spectacular fashion, not once but twice.
The beer itself is a close relative of the Cuvée René Oud Gueuze, named after the father of the current generation of management, who is still hale and hearty and still comes by the brewery on a regular basis.
The name “oud gueuze” is protected by law, and the beer must be a blend of old lambic more than three years old and young lambic aged one year. It’s not pasteurised, and it’s aged in wooden barrels.
As a blend, it’s somewhat more mature, slightly more rounded than the usual Cuvée René, as you’d expect from the use of five-year-old lambic. It’s similarly clean, fresh and bone-dry, floral even, which is all down to the ageing: lambic beers have hops added, but only old hops which should not and do not exceed the taste threshold. The Lindemans gueuze – as opposed to the Oud Gueuze – is considered a tad too sweet by many. No such problems here. This beer is not sweet, nor is it butt-clenchingly sour. It’s the taste of purity.
Special Blend is a beer to buy now, if you can get your hands on some, and drink on the first warm sunny day thereafter. When it’s all gone, it’ll be gone, but we’ll have a pleasant memory.