Jean Claude Van Lambic is the first beer from the 4 Pines barrel program to receive a bottled release outside of their venues.
This beer was put into barrels in May 2013 so it has had plenty of time to mature and develop.
It was left in muscat barrels for an extensive barreling time of two years. Surprisingly though, there’s not a lot of overt oak flavour which is refreshing.
Of the barrel-begotten character, there is some Pediococcus butteriness (think Chardonnay) which presents itself more as the beer warms in the glass.
Attention And Reaction
Jean Claude van Lambic will evoke a reaction. There was no hype to the release, instead it slyly found its way into bottle shops one Friday afternoon before 4 Pines published something about it on their website. If there was a way to soft launch a beer that’s guaranteed to garner attention this was it.
It’ll also get responses because it’s an adventurous beer. It carries the label of “lambic” which will generate debate and infuriate some people.
Lambic is traditionally made in a particular region of Belgium, although the designation actually refers to how the beer is produced. Thanks to Luke Robertson for the clarification on the designation. See the excellent lambic.info for more on the extensive topic.
4 Pines have also been a victim of their own success when it comes to the opinion of hardcore beer geeks. It’s those people to whom this style of beer will appeal, rather than the loyal Pale Ale or Kolsch drinkers. But if Jean Claude van Lambic can also expose people to this type of wood-aged beer then that’s only a good thing.
This barrel aged beer was released shortly after the launch of the Wildflower beers and a week before the Marrickville blender’s third releases. Even for an established brewery like 4 Pines, that’s tough competition given the impact that Topher Boehm’s Wildflower has had since launching.
But if we separate all that context, all the subtext, and focus on the beer it’s pretty good.
Keller Door, Barrelled
The base beer is a simple golden beer. It’s in a Belgian tradition but it’s straight down the line and uncomplicated to begin with.
It has a wonderful orange-gold complexion with a frothy white head that forms into mountainous peaks before subsiding to the thinnest sheet of snow.
Once settled, the liquid sits remarkably heavy in the glass. There’s certainly no spritz to it but it retains enough carbonation given a swirl of the glass. Left alone it looks quite flat in the glass, but this is the experience you’ll get from any number of true lambics from that region of Belgium.
There’s a wonderful orange flavour which edges into a slightly bitter pith before warming to a more citric zest and evolving into a lemon-like character. This is followed by some subtle cherry and a delightful, smooth butteriness.
It finishes very dry which is possibly down to the time this beer has spent with a variety of yeast and bacteria. These will have ravenously eaten up sugars in the beer lending to a drier finish.
Jean Claude, as we’ll refer to this beer, also shows a noticeable amount of oxidisation, with a touch of paperiness to its mid-palate. This is probably to be expected given the time this beer has been around since it was originally brewed.
Drinking under the 7% ABV, it provides a pleasant experience and remains quaffable.
Pair it with seared scallops, with the lightest twist of salt and cracked black pepper, and bathed in brown butter.
A Milestone Beer
This beer marks something of milestone in the development of beer in Sydney.
4 Pines is one of the leading breweries in the country, never mind the city. Their barrel program has been running for a while and with the opening of the barrel room venue in Newport, it’s clearly forming part of their identity.
Bottle releases are the next step in making this a part of their offering and a part of what they’re known for.
The branding also makes sense. The (admittedly strange) 800ml bottles are emblazoned beautifully with a pressed label. They carry some gravitas, they sit nicely on a dinner table. The Keller Door Barrelled label is also a nice spin off from the normal Keller Door range.
If this attracts people to some exciting styles because of the familiarity of the 4 Pines name, it can only be a good thing for Australian beer.
From: Brookvale, NSW
Beer style: Wild ale
Pair with: Seared scallops in brown butter
Did you get your hands on 4 Pines Jean Claude van Lambic? If so leave a comment and share your thoughts.