In order to understand the history of fruited Lambics, one must first understand the long, rich history of Lambic. What we know as Lambic likely evolved slowly from other spontaneously fermented beverages dating back to the ancient inhabitants of the Fertile Crescent. The Romans introduced the use of wooden casks around A.D. 21. Hops were widely accepted as the preferred spice in the 10th century. And a beer that we would likely recognize as Lambic was being lovingly produced in Belgium as early as the 12th century. In order to do so, the brewer, who was often also a farmer, built a mash consisting of 60% malted barley and 40% wheat. A minimum volume of aged hops was added to the boil solely for their preservative properties. Next the wort was transferred to a coolship, a long, wide and shallow vessel, designed, as the name implies, to cool the wort. Brewers would often start early in the morning, in order to have all of the wort in the coolship by nightfall, and therefore take advantage of the cooler evening temperatures. In through the open windows, along with the chilly Belgian breeze, came magic. Soon, the wort began to bubble and foam, the result (we now know) of a mixed culture fermentation beginning. Finally, the slowly fermenting elixir was moved to oak barrels for maturation. The barrel staves harbor lactic acid producing bacteria, which also helps with fermentation and acidifies the beer.
Adding fruit to traditionally produced Lambic is a significantly more recent development in brewing history, and likely began as a cottage industry. In fact, the first explicit mention we find of a cherry addition lies in the 1878 manuscript of tenant farmer Josse De Pauw from Schepdaal, Belgium. He writes: “Take good clear lambic, two years old, at least good tasting, twenty kilograms of good ripe cherries per one hundred litres of lambic. Press the cherries and add the stones (pits). Leave to rest, draw off until December and leave to rest for twenty to thirty days, then bottle, stopper, and lay down.” The fact that this tradition blossomed around the village of Schaarbeek outside Brussels is no accident as the cherries of the same name were once abundant in the area. And while cherries were likely the first fruit to be combined with Lambic, they were certainly not the last. The resultant beers have traditionally been named simply for the fruit included.
Six years ago, while Josh Pfriem was in the process of opening pFriem he went to visit his old friend Ian Roberts who had just opened the Pine Box. It was a celebratory evening with beers and excitement for the future of Pine Box and pFriem. With great enthusiasm, Ian and Josh decided it would be great to collaborate on an anniversary beer in the future.
6th Nail was born of the collaborative spirit of our industry. We sat down with our old friends from the Pine Box in Seattle, and allowed ourselves to dream. We wanted to come up with something special to celebrate their 6th anniversary of leading and supporting the Craft Beer industry in the North West. We began with samples of just about everything in our barrelhouse, Peche, Kriek, Pruim, Abrikoos, Nectarine Golden, samples straight from barrels and foeders, the list goes on! Next, we stole a graduated cylinder from the lab and started blending! Each of us took a different approach, but we all eventually arrived at the same conclusion. The blend that best embodied a “total greater than the sum of its parts” was that of 1 part Peche, 1 part Nectarine Golden Ale, 2 parts young lambic-inspired base, and ½ part Pruim. The result is a resplendent bouquet of stonefruit, juniper, and effervescent funk. We’re honored and delighted to celebrate this joyous occasion with our friends! Happy 6th-anniversary Pinebox!
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