Lambic (beer)


August 13, 2022

Lambic (also lambic or lambic) is a regional beer from the Zenne valley, in which Brussels is also located, and especially from the Pajottenland southwest of Brussels. However, it is now also brewed by some breweries outside this region, namely in West Flanders where similar conditions are found.

The name Lambic

The name 'lambic' is first mentioned as 'allambique' in 1794. The name lambic has also been explained as a corruption of the name of the municipality of Lembeek, a statement fiercely defended by Frank Boon and the late Dr. Albert Valkeniers. Another, more plausible explanation is that the name comes from the French alambic, in Dutch alembic, from the jenever or brandy distillers. Lambic/Lambic would therefore have arisen from the corruption of "bierre d'allambique". In the 19th century, there was also talk of gueuze(n) lambic, which was clearly distinguished from regular lambic, although they were both supplied in barrel.


Lambic is characterized by its spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts from the open air. It is brewed with malted barley, unmalted wheat and a lot of old hops and it ferments in oak barrels. 500,000 hectoliters per year are brewed, of which 200,000 hectoliters is brewed by the Belle-Vue brewery of the InBev group. Lambic was once drunk straight from the barrel, it is an eminently thirst-quenching drink and was often served to the workers in the typical earthen pitchers as they can be seen in the painting "The peasant wedding". Many farmers brought part of their grain harvest to the local brewery to make lambic. Today most lambic is used as raw material for gueuze, kriek or faro. Lambic is a traditional specialty recognized and protected by the European Union. It had previously been recognized as a regional product by the Flemish Center for Agro- and Fisheries Marketing (VLAM).

Brewing method

Spontaneous fermentation

Lambic used to be a seasonal beer that was only brewed during the winter months, but now there are means to control the temperature during the fermentation process. However, the necessary yeasts are still only present in the right proportions from the beginning of October to the end of April. In the past, brewing was even banned before the name day of the patron saint of Brussels, Saint Michael (September 29) or after that of the other dragon-killing saint Saint George (April 23). This also worked out well: lambic was first brewed by farmers. They did that after their harvest, when they had grain and time. Spontaneous fermentation in beer brewing was already practiced about 5000 years ago in Mesopotamia and was still widespread until after the Middle Ages. Lambic brewing differs from brewing other beers by using wild mixed yeasts. There are 86 different natural yeasts floating in the air. Fermentation starts in the first three months by Saccharomyces globulus and Saccharomyces dairensis, then Saccharomyces uvarum, Saccharomyces bayanus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Until the eighth month, lactic acid fermentation occurs caused by lactic acid bacteria, especially Pediococcus cerevisiae. Secondary alcoholic fermentation then starts with the formation of ethyl lactate, mainly by the yeasts Brettanomyces bruxellensis and Brettanomyces lambicus. The Dane Clausen discovered these ferments in English stock beer in 1904, hence the name. The suffix refers to Brussels and to lambic. It is mainly the fermentation that produces the aroma. There are 21 species of Brettanomyces. They have the property of being resistant to alcohol.


According to the lambic makers themselves, the lambic tradition has roots as far back as the Middle Ages. Thus, in 1420, Duke John IV of Brabant is said to have issued an edict to add more wheat to beer to improve its quality. However, this edict has never been found. Furthermore,