BROUWERIJ LINDEMANS of Belgium is best known in the States for their wide array of fruit lambics. Nearly ubiquitous in beer aisles aspiring to international standards, they are eschewed by some as over-sweetened and simplified: lambic with training-wheels meant for simple-syrup sycophants. Yet few indeed take issue with another of Lindemans’ ‘introductory level’ lambics–the Gueuze Cuvée René. Called the Grand Cru of the lineup, Cuvée René blends old and young ales for a more complex and consistent product, generally emphasizing the young’s crispness and relative cleanliness over the old’s intense tang. Judged separately from its sweetened peers, Cuvée René is regularly cited as a dependable starter gueuze for its availability, accessibility, price, and (last but not least) quality.
Beneath the heavy, crestlike contours of its distinctive orange label, René has a rather standard appearance for a gueuze: mostly golden with a faint rose tint, highly effervescent and with a champagne-like foaming head. Hardly unique, but why tamper with a winning formula? Plenty of sediment in the bottom of a 750 bottle leaves perhaps a shot glass full of dregs, once decanted. This cloudy mixture on its own is delicious, considerably less sour than the decanted beer and full of cream and vanilla to complement the overarching presence of tangerine.
On the nose the beer a little cagey, hinting at variety of softer sour ale aromas without riding any too aggressively: a bit of barnyard, but more mineral, rocky notes like slate and nickel, then tart tangerine, and a tiny daub of honey. No sign of skunking despite the green glass and two years of aging. That tangerine presence charges forward on the palate and is met equally by grapefruit–surprisingly so, as the latter shows nowhere in the bouquet. A cidery, slightly acetic tang develops over the course of a bottle but never becomes especially puckering. Above all, Cuvée René is poised and diplomatic. Final impressions are wonderfully dry, dissipating cleanly in the carbonation again almost like champagne and leaving the mouth refreshed but also wanting more.
At a touch over two years, this bottle showed a fine balance between tartness and maturity. But still being more straightforward (i.e. simpler) than many gueuzes, Lindeman’s is at its best when quite chilled. Favoring its younger proportion, the cooler temperature will enhance the drink’s natural strengths–crispness and a tart fruit tang–instead of the denser funk that older blends exhibit at room temperature. Although Cuvée René may not be a true brett behemoth, at around $10 for a 750 ml bottle it is probably the best gueuze for the dollar to be found on American shelves.
Served: 750 ml bottled Aug 11, 2011