Back in 2001, 2002, and 2003, I brewed at least a couple batches of lambic each year. In 2004, I blended some one-year-old, two-year-old, and three-year old lambic to make a gueuze (a blended lambic). The beer turned out well. It won Best of Show at the 2004 Austin ZEALOTS Inquisition. And, I had 15 gallons (57 L) of it as each blender was 5 gallons (19 L) in volume. There are better gueuze blending strategies than this, but at the time I did not know them. Even so, this was one of the coolest things I ever did as a homebrewer, and I even wrote about it awhile ago.
With 15 gallons (57 L) of beer into to put into bottles, I had to scrounge around to find every available package I had. Along with a few cases of 22-ounce (650-mL) bottles, I ended up using several 1 L bombers to hold some of the beer. After bottling, I set the 1 L bombers aside . . . and forgot about them.
A couple weeks ago, while scrounging around my brewing equipment, I found them. So, suddenly I had six bombers of gueuze that was 10 years old. I immediately put one of the bottles in my fridge, let it cool overnight, and sampled it the next evening. I sampled a couple other bottles in the past few weeks, too. Here is what I found.
The bombers are sealed with a rubber grommet in the same manner that Grolsh bottles are. I wondered if the beer would be carbonated at all. However, when I opened the top, it gave a small pop, indicating there was some combination left. Likewise, when I poured the beer, I could see bubbles rising through it and a small amount of foam formed on top. The beer was never as highly carbonated as it “should” have been, so it seems that it retained at least most of the carbonation.
The beer poured clear and pale, with perhaps a hint of orange to the color. The foam mostly collapsed within a few seconds, but the last little bit held on for several minutes. The gueuze had a clean, strongly sour taste and aroma, without a lot of “barnyard” or “funky” notes. It was dry, but not bone dry, and retained a small amount of body. Although it was blended 10 years ago — with part of the blend being 13 years old — I could not detect any cardboard or Sherry flavors, indicating oxidation. As I mentioned, however, the beer was very slightly orange (and color pickup is something that happens when beer gets oxidized).
In all, it looked, smelled, and tasted like it did back in 2004, as best as I remember it. The slight darkening was the only observable change I could detect.
Sour beers have a reputation for aging well. Their low pH surely contributes to this aging potential. And, this beer was intensely sour, so the pH must’ve been about as low as it could be for a sour beer. (I didn’t take the pH, but a value of 3.3–3.4 would be consistent with similarly sour beers. “Normal” beers generally have a pH of 4.0–4.4.) Likewise, I noticed that all the bottles were filled so that headspace was minimized. This would cut down on the amount of oxygen in the bottle. I was a little surprised that the rubber grommets apparently let in so little oxygen.
Tasting this beer makes me want to get my blended lambic program back in gear again — if I brew a lambic soon, and subsequent lambics each year, I could be ready to blend of my next gueuze in 2017. I could even save the last bottle of this for blending day.