Beer Maverick

Belgian-Style Lambic

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Location: Belgian and French
Category: Ale
BJCP Comparable Category: 23D - Lambic

Style Description

This is the description of how the Belgian-Style Lambic style of beer should taste, feel and look. However, there may be perfectly fine beers in this style that fall outside of these ranges and descriptions. This information is just to show the most commonly accepted ranges for the Belgian-Style Lambic beer style.

Lambics originating in the Brussels area of Belgium are often simply called Lambic. Versions of this beer style made outside of the Brussels area cannot be called true Lambics. These versions are said to be “Belgian-Style Lambic” and may be made to resemble many of the beers of true origin. Historically, traditional Lambic is dry and completely attenuated, exhibiting no residual sweetness either from malt, sugar or other sweeteners. Sweet versions may be created through the addition of sugars or other sweeteners. Traditionally, Lambics are brewed with unmalted wheat and malted barley.

  • Color: Gold to medium amber
  • Body: Very low with dry mouthfeel
  • Malt Flavors & Aromas: Sweet malt character should not be present
  • Hop Flavors & Aromas: Not present to very low, and can include cheesy or floral lavender-like attributes. Hop character is achieved by using stale and aged hops at low rates.
  • IBUs/Bitterness: Very low
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Characteristic horsey, goaty, leathery and phenolic aromas and flavors derived from Brettanomyces yeast are often present at moderate levels. High to very high fruity esters are present. Traditionally, Lambics are unblended and spontaneously fermented. They express high to very high levels of fruity esters as well as bacteria and yeast-derived sourness. Some versions are fermented with the addition of cultured yeast and bacteria. Carbonation can range from very low to high. Vanillin and other wood-derived flavors should not be present.
  • Common Ingredients: Unmalted wheat (30-40%), Pilsner malt and aged hops (3 years) are used. The aged hops are used more for preservative effects than bitterness, and makes actual bitterness levels difficult to estimate. Traditionally these beers are spontaneously fermented with naturally occurring yeast and bacteria in predominately oaken barrels. The barrels used are neutral with little oak character, so don’t expect a fresh or forward oak character – more neutral is typical. Home-brewed and craft-brewed versions are more typically made with pure cultures of yeast commonly including Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus in an attempt to recreate the effects of the dominant microbiota of Brussels and the surrounding countryside of the Senne River valley. Cultures taken from bottles are sometimes used but there is no simple way of knowing what organisms are still viable.
  • Commercial Examples: Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella

Brewing Properties of Belgian-Style Lambic

These are the functional brewing properties of Belgian-Style Lambic beers, as descided by the Brewers Association. These guidelines reflect, as accurately as possible, the historical significance, authenticity or a common profile in the current commercial beer market.

The alcohol by volume is shows the amount of alcohol this style of beer should have.
5.0 - 8.2%
The International Bittering Units (IBU) scale is used to approximately quantify the actual (not perceived) bitterness of beer.
9 - 23 IBUs
SRM is a scale for measuring the color intensity of a beer. Low SRM grains impart a pale straw color while higher values mean it will add a darker color to the wort. Learn more »
6 - 13 SRM
(12 - 26 EBC)
Original Gravity
Original Gravity (OG) is a measure of the sugar content in the wort before alcoholic fermentation has started to produce the beer.
1.047 - 1.056
Final Gravity
The Final Gravity (FG) is how much sugar is left over in the beer when fermentation is complete.
1.000 - 1.010

If you see an error in our data, please let us know!

Based on Brewers Association 2020 Beer Style Guidelines with changes. Used with permission of Brewers Association.