ASIDE FROM the exclusivity inherent to its limited production, the bellwether Oude Geuze produced by Armand Debelder of 3 Fonteinen is the rare beer that develops into excellence not just as it warms, but also as it is exposed to oxygen. All beers’ flavors change once introduced to the elements, of course, but few open up and benefit as dramatically as does 3 Fonteinen’s. Fans of more robust, dry, and slatey champagnes will delight in the beer’s razor-edge refinement, uplifting brilliance of aroma and texture, almost bracing acidity, and exquisite, small-bubbled effervescence.
It pours with a copious pillow of white head, a slightly hazy color between deep gold and amber, and a light body readily apparent from its agile flow into the glass. Lemon, peach pit, green apple skin, nickel, wildflower honey, and a little Brett yeast tang bloom in the aroma and across the tongue, settling delicately into a lengthy and luxurious finish as it interacts with air. This is also the rare beer to gain confidence and character as one samples more of it, whereas in most cases each subsequent sip is a vain chase after the thrill of the first impression. 3 Fonteinen rather gains in strength, becoming clearer, crisper, more laser-like in its focus and revitalization of the palate. The interplay of robust but refined sensations (lemon tartness against lactic creaminess) also caters marvelously to food, from simple balsamic-tossed salad to paprika-laced goulash.
In 2009, a severe mishap in production obliged Armand to depend almost exclusively upon other producers (e.g. Girardin) for several years, but all throughout his blends deservedly retained their distinction and reputation. As of last year 3 Fonteinen is back to making its own beer to scale. Yet one more reason among many to raise a Geuze in recognition.
Served: 750 ml bottled Jan 17, 2013