When I tasted my first Cantillon beer back in 2007, it was like the heavens had opened up and sunshine beamed down on my glass. Completely absorbed in the wine world at the time, I had absolutely no clue such a beer could exist. I was blown away. Cantillon is truly one of the finest breweries in the world, and it is always such a great joy when one is opened.
Their beers, from the gueuzes to the krieks to the delicious Fou Foune, never cease to astound and spread happy smiles throughout a room. And so I begin with you the journey of cellaring these incredible brews.
Today we start with the Iris, as I had the privilege of recently tasting the 2007 vintage, and I thought “What a perfect anniversary present from my very first sips of Cantillon?” (This special beer is only brewed once per season, hence the vintage dating). So what’s the story?
This spontaneous fermentation beer was birthed in 1998, upon the 20th anniversary of the Brussels Museum of the Gueuze. The use of the iris is a direct reference to the city of Brussels, which maintains this gorgeous flower as it symbol.
Unlike it’s Lambic brethren, which is made with 100% dried hops, Iris utilizes 50% dried and 50% fresh hops. The beer is then aged for 2 years in oak barrels and then fresh-hopped again 2 weeks before bottling.
So what does this mean? In it’s youth, the Iris has both aged complexity and a fresh vibrancy with the hop addition. So naturally, with aging, this aspect of the beer will taper off. All the more reason to buy two! One for now, one for aging! I asked the man with the cellar plan, Dr. Bill Sysak, how long the delicious Iris could age, and he recommends anywhere from 3- 10 years. So you have lots of time to work with people!
The 2007 had wonderful notes of hay, dried flowers and grasses, and a fresh squeezed combination of citrus (lemon, grapefruit) and tree fruits (pear and apple). Mmm! With that telltale touch of stable and a delightful dryness, you feel like you are frolicking in the orchard fields somewhere in the crisp-aired countryside of Belgium, while horses run around and irises grow at your feet. Quite a delicious picture, eh?
I think I’ll just leave you with that image for for the day….
Until next time,
Get your hands on a Cantillon beer and start planning your play date.