I must make a confession: I’m in love with lambics. While bitter IPAs were my first craft-beer crush, I’ve lately turned my affections to the family of spontaneously fermented sour Belgian suds. To me, lambics’ pucker is pure pleasure. The tartness enlivens my taste buds, shocking them into attention—without bashing them into submission with too much booze. Similarly, sourness is one reason that I dig a nice, cold glass of fermented kombucha tea. Its lively acidity makes it as refreshing as a cold shower come summer.
Hence, you’ll understand my glee when a recent beer-store trip revealed Lambrucha, a marriage of lambic and kombucha. It’s a one-of-a-kind royal rumble of unruly yeasts. Allow me to explain: Brewers are no strangers to blending, creating lip-smacking mash-ups such as coffee-infused stouts. And to make gueuze, Belgian breweries combine one-, two- and three-year-old lambics, then let the mixture age and continue fermenting in the bottle.
That’s common practice. Combining two disparate live-yeast drinks? Unheard of—till Don Feinberg, of Chicago-based importers Vanberg & DeWulf, had a brainstorm after sampling the fermented tea a few years back. Since both lambic and kombucha contain Brettanomyces, a wild yeast that imparts a funky tartness, he posited that the liquids could cozy up. He enlisted a lambic brewer, a scientist and an organic kombucha producer, and the crack team created a harmonious convergence of tea and beer.
Lambrucha pours out a cloudy peach-pink, with bubbles racing breakneck to the surface. On the nose, there’s an earthy funk that’s balanced by lemon zest, with citrus, green apples, and tannins zinging through on the first bright, tart sip. And the second. And the third. Heck, guzzle the whole bottle. The soft sourness never overwhelms, and the 3.5 percent ABV means Lambrucha can serve as an all-day refreshment.
Tea time can never come too soon.
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