Belgian lambic is one of the world's ultimate acquired tastes. Not those intensely sweetened, fruit-flavored Lindemans beers. I'm talking about the traditionally unsweetened ales spontaneously fermented with wild yeasts and aged for years in oak barrels, that emerge as equal parts pucker, fruit and barnyard musk, a combination that requires most first-timers to seriously recalibrate the tastebuds.
Once that is accomplished, though, a masterful gueuze - a blend of 1-, 2-, and 3-year-old lambics - is among the world's most exquisitely complex and refreshing drinks. One of the best comes from Pierre Tilquin, who blends and re-ferments base lambics from four breweries (Cantillon, Boon, Girardin, Lindemans) into a gueuze of remarkable elegance. Splurge a bit more for his gueuze made with "quetsche" plums – their tannic, purple-skinned fruit adding vivid depth to the ale's lemony backbone - and you'll be hooked, too.
- Craig LaBan
Tilquin Oude Gueuze, $16 a 12.7 oz. bottle; $10 on draft at Strangelove's (216 S. 11th St., 215-873-0404). Quetsche Tilquin, $40 a 750 ml bottle at Strangelove's. Smaller 12.7 oz. Quetsche bottles, $15 at Brew, 1900 S. 15th St.