Drinking aged lambic beers can be a great pleasure. As someone who is a huge fan of Belgium’s funky, dry, tart lambic brews, some of my life’s most memorable moments have been savoring such beers during a trip to “The Beer Country”, Belgium.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity to savor a circa 1975 Cantillon Kriek in 2014, and wrote about that experience here. It was a great beer, still in great shape for its age.
I also covered the predecessor to Lou Pepe Kriek, Pure Kriek Cantillon 1996, in this article from 2018.
Just last month, good fortune struck again. A friend, Ray Penny, one who I can proudly claim as having personally first exposed to lambic beers just over three years ago, brought a Brasserie Cantillon Grand Cru Bruocsella 1983 to a tasting here in Virginia. The 1983 is the first documented bottling of this beer, making it one of the oldest in Cantillon’s current lineup. Grand Cru Bruocsella was created by Jean-Pierre Van Roy, the father of current brewer Jean Van Roy.
Jean Van Roy told me recently: “Indeed, Grand Cru Bruocsella 83 was the first bottling of this beer. But in fact, the lambic dates to 1983, and the beer was bottled in 1986. The reason we created this beer is because, when we are tasting Lambic for making Gueuze blends, we discover, from time to time, great 3 year old beers, and the idea was to give the opportunity to the people to taste them as well.”
Jean added: “For me, this beer is still one of my favorites, but I don’t remember when I tasted it for the first time.”
Cantillon must have saved some corks with 1983 dates to use for this 1986 bottling, as you can see the cork date is 1983 in some photos below.
As you can see from the primary photo, the label on the original Grand Cru Bruoscella was black, and was so for a number of years. Some time in the early ’90′s, the label was changed to a white one, and it remains so today. At present, the specific label is determined by whether the bottle is destined for Belgium or somewhere in Europe, or to an export country. Bottles specifically intended for export to the U.S. have a slightly different label than those sold in Belgium. The beer is known as “Cantillon Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru” when exported to the U.S.
I had never tasted a Grand Cru Bruocsella with 30 years plus of age on it, and this one had 36 years under its belt. I have to say, it was very, very good, with low oxidation, evident lambic funk, low to medium tartness, and a depth of character that I had not experienced in younger versions of this brew.
Grand Cru Bruocsella, or GCB as it sometimes known for short, is composed solely of lambics from the same brewing season, aged in oak barrels for three years.
Grand Cru Bruocsella is one of the favorite beers of Cantillon brewmaster and master blender, Jean Van Roy. You can feel his passion for it on his comments on the Cantillon website: “The Lambic Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon is a lambic which has matured for three years in oakwood barrels and has been selected for its exceptional colour, taste and flavour. Its light, slightly amber, yellow-gold colour and its aroma, a mixture of apples and honey, make the Grand Cru Bruocsella a very seductive beer. Its taste derives from its dry character and its slight and discreet acidity.”
He added: “The taste of the Grand Cru Bruocsella Cantillon will change in course of time and the beer can be kept for years. We recommend our customers to savour this old Lambic in wine glasses (tasting glasses).”
About the taste of this finely aged, rare lambic, lambic lover Kyle had this to say: “A perfectly cellared Grand Cru Bruocsella was shared generously by Ray Penny, among friends, thirty-six years after its bottling. The intentionally “still” lambic best showcases the distinctive character of Cantillon, and was a testament of how well a Belgian beer can stand the test of time. We discovered a healthy cork upon opening, which was accompanied by a relieving hiss, which signaled this lambic was well preserved. The beer poured an opaque, tawny orange with a surprisingly minuscule amount of sediment. Soft, inviting aromas included holster flint, horsey funk, and wet stone. Tasting the ’83 GCB revealed an uncarbonated, full bodied lambic layered with notes of ripe fruit followed by a clean and pleasant finish, void of detectable oxidation or sharp acidity. This Grand Cru Bruocsella was a rare treat to not only experience, but savor with fellow enthusiasts of lambic.”
Grand Cru Bruoscella, a still, bottled blend of three year old lambics, is one of the few of its kind that exists in the lambic beer world, and one that every lambic aficionado should seek out.
Grand Cru Bruoscella was also recreated with its original label for the second edition of the world-class BXL Beer Festival in Brussels in 2018. It was sold as part of a package of small batch beers made especially for the festival, which happens on August 24 and 25 in 2019. Don’t miss this great beer fest. Brasserie Cantillon will be there, with a number of special beers.