Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Night Football and Old Lambic. Lots of It.

Upstairs in my neighbor's fridge is a 10-liter jug of Girardin old lambic. It is flat, softly tart, lemony, cidery and wonderful. They told us we only had a week or so to drink it before it really goes downhill. We're doing our damnedest. With the NFL playoffs tonight, it's salty snacks and sour beer for us.

The jug is part of our bounty from a productive beer expedition yesterday. Girardin was our first stop. I knew the brewery in Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle was not generally open to visitors. It's famously secretive and doesn't do tours. But I'd heard it was possible to buy lambic there, if you showed up at the right time. I cynically expected this to be some narrow window of time Saturday afternoon, or every third Tuesday after the dog howls at a full moon. Turns out it's open for sales every day except Sundays and holidays. Easy.

The brewery is an old farmhouse, square-shaped with an open courtyard in the middle. From the road as you approach you see two large, gleaming coppers through plate-glass windows on one side. That's about as transparent as this brewery gets. The rest is mist and rumor.

Picking up a jug is like the Pajottenland version of getting a growler from your local brewpub. For the record, a 10-liter plastic jug of Girardin lambic – young or old – will run you €15.80 (plus €10 deposit for the jug itself, but that doesn't count). Do the math on that and you're looking at €1.58 per liter, or less than 53 cents per glass of beer. Just pennies really, for something handmade by real artists and matured in oak for up to three years.

It's a steal. It's bargain-basement beauty. It's exactly the sort of discovery that makes you secretly hope that lambic never again catches on with the general Belgian populace. They'd only drive up the prices! Why cost-conscious Belgian lads aren't all picking up jugs of this nectar on Saturdays, when they have their buds over to watch Jupiler League, I have no idea.

Oh wait, yes I do. It's because they're drinking Jupiler.

I have many more thoughts on Girardin, but I'll save them for future posts or barroom chats. I'm going to steal some more from my neighbor right now. For handy reference, the shopping hours at Girardin are Monday through Friday 8.00-12.00 and 13.00 to 18.00; Saturday 8.00-12.00 and 13.00 to 15.00; closed Sundays and holidays. The address is Lindenbergstraat 10, 1700 Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle.

Ten liters is a lot, by the way. We could use some help. Come on over.


  1. Joe! You have crushed my soul with this news when I combine it with the fact that I like 5,000 miles away. So, could you gueuze this up yourself by priming a few litres of the lambic for a few months of further bottle fermentation?

  2. Alan, great question. The simple answer is yes. Instead of homebrewing you're talking about home-blending. Why not?

    If you wanted to get really fancy about it you could pick up jugs of jonge and oud lambic from various brewers, blend them to your own liking, prime them (or not, since young lambic is in there), bottle yourself, and wait to see what happens. In fact I'm sure there are locals who do it.

    Could be a worthy experiment. I'll think more on this and ask around.

  3. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow... The thought of 10 liters of the finest Girardin... It's just too much for my small brain to handle.

  4. Joe: do it for me. Do it for those who can't!

    It does sound like a good experience. Maybe prime a little with maple syrup sometime as a tribute to Canada, land of those who can imagine "home-blending" but have no resources to do it!

  5. Hey Joe,

    I shall part the mists and put the rumors to bed in upcoming articles!

    Chuck Cook