A fruit beer with a nice balance between the sweetness of red apples, the freshness of green apples and the sour-sweet character of lambic. The first taste is sharp and full-bodied, but then the sweet cider notes give way to a balance between a slightly sweet-sour taste.
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A fruit lambic defines a specific subcategory within the lambic family — a funky, medieval-style Belgian beer that relies on wild yeast strains and a relatively long barrel-aging process to create its unique flavor. To create a fruit lambic, brewers add real fruit (most commonly raspberry, strawberry, peach or cherry) to the sour, apple-cider-like traditional lambic, allowing the ingredients to age together for several months. Like those for the cherry-flavored Kriek lambic, traditional recipes call for whole fruit, even the pits and seeds, though some lambic brewers today will use fruit syrups or juices instead; most authentic fruit lambics are rustic-looking and unfiltered.
Lambics, especially fruit lambics, are a must-try for those who prefer sour ales; if you were eating Warheads as a kid, then these acidic brews will be right up your alley. Traditionally, to create a fruit lambic, brewers add whole fruit to a younger lambic, allowing the fruits to macerate in the sour liquid for several months. The final result is an undeniably tart, yet still mildly sweet beer that adopts the color and flavor of the fruit selected for that particular brew — some of the more common fruits used in fruit lambic recipes include raspberries (a style known as framboise), peaches (peche), cherries (Kriek) and black currants (cassis).
In general, lambics contain between 5-6% ABV, but the alcohol content can vary dramatically depending on the style, with some as low as 2% and others topping 10%. Some of the more widely available fruit lambics are often on the lower end of the spectrum (between 2-5% ABV). Lindemans, one of the best-known brands in the U.S, has a whole list of tasty fruit-forward lambics that contain a surprisingly mild alcohol content — the framboise, their popular raspberry-flavored fruit lambic, has just 2.5%; comparably, Cantillon (another respected lambic brand) offers a Framboise of their own that contains over 5% ABV.
A fruit lambic recipe requires a combination of fresh fruit (naturally gluten-free) with a young lambic (unfortunately not gluten-free); an authentic lambic requires both unmalted wheat and malted barley — two grains that contain gluten molecules. Most of the original Belgian lambic brewers are traditionalists and it’s unlikely you’ll find gluten-safe options from these classic brands anytime soon.
The defining ingredient that separates an ale from a lager is the yeast: ale yeasts are a top-fermenting strain that prefers warmer environments and lager yeasts are a bottom-fermenting strain that likes a chillier climate. Lambics, whether classic lambics or fruit lambics, rely on a process called “spontaneous fermentation,” by which brewers leave the lambics to the whims of Mother Nature; the wort is left to cool down in large open vessels (called coolships), attracting wild yeasts from the natural environment. Wild yeasts aside, fruit lambics are categorized as a Belgian-style of ale, though many consider them in a classification all on their own.
While nutritional values vary between the many fruit flavors and lambic brands, most fruit lambics contain at least 200 calories and well over 20 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving (though, traditional lambics are often sold in 25-ounce bottles, so the actual calories and carbohydrates in one vessel are double the typical serving size). Some of the best-known fruit lambics available in the United States, like Lindemans Framboise, contain 220 calories and almost 40 grams of carbohydrates; the added fruits contribute a significant increase in the nutritional content. However, lambic beers tend to contain more probiotic benefits and less residual sugars than other ales, so you can feel a little better about that high carb count.