Belgium/USA: HORAL successful in defending terms ‘Gueuze’ and ‘Lambic’

The High Council on Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL) was successful in defending the use of the term ‘Gueuze’ and  ‘Lambic’ exclusivelyto beer, which is spontaneously fermented by wild yeast and bacteria in the Belgium's Zenne Valley. Texas-based Jester King Brewery deliberately agreed to rename the production method of its spontaneously fermented beer from ‘Méthode Gueuze’ to ‘Méthode Traditionelle’.

Last year, Jeffrey Stuffings, founder and president of Jester King, introduced the traditional method of spontaneous fermentation, which allows the wort to inoculate naturally with airborne yeast and bacteria, as the first brewer to the United States. Jester King’s beer is brewed in a cold winter night, when temperatures in Texas come close to those in Belgium. The hot wort is cooled after boiling in a traditional open-air copper vessel (called a coolship) in an upstairs room of the brewery with open windows, allowing outside cold air infected with native yeast and bacteria to blow over the wort.

By analogy with bottle-fermented sparkling wine, which is not produced in the French Champagne region and which was formerly called ‘Méthode Champenoise’, Stuffings invented the new term ‘Méthode Gueuze’. But alike the term ‘Méthode Champenoise’, which is not longer allowed as it erodes the reputation of original Champagne, HORAL also objected to the term ‘Méthode Gueuze’.

“We don’t understand why, ultimately, Jester King has chosen the specific use of Gueuze in ‘Méthode Gueuze,’” HORAL wrote in April in a letter to Jester King. “Given the vast history and heritage of the original style, the socio-cultural gravity and its clear link with the terroir of the Zenne Valley, the concepts of ‘lambic’ and ‘gueuze’ are very powerful.” As a compromise HORAL suggested the use of the term ‘Méthode Traditionelle’, just the same way the term ‘Méthode Classique’ is now used for bottle-fermented sparkling wines, which are not produced in the Champagne region.

After travelling to Belgium to meet and speak with HORAL Stuffings was persuaded to change the name “out of respect to both history and (his) own desire to make beers true to their own origin.”

Stuffings describes his travel to Belgium on the brewery’s website: “We adopted Méthode Gueuze as the style description for our three-year spontaneous blend released in 2016, and attempted to establish Méthode Gueuze as a new, certified style of beer. Our motivation was to deal with the problem of what to call Lambic and G(u)euze inspired beer made outside of the traditional region of Belgium. We wanted to make clear to beer drinkers that our beer was made following the traditional recipe and technique of G(u)euze, but was not made in the traditional region, and therefore is not authentic.”

He continues:“Back in March, we received a letter from HORAL voicing their displeasure with Méthode Gueuze. … We reached out to HORAL for a sit down meeting to discuss the disagreement. HORAL graciously agreed to the meeting, and back in June, we travelled to Lot, Belgium to meet with them. We were accompanied by James Howat of Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales in Denver, Colorado.”

And he goes on in his description: “As we knew going in, HORAL did not approve of the term Méthode Gueuze, and it became apparent that they did not appreciate the words “Lambic” or “G(u)euze” being used in the fanciful name or stylistic description of Lambic-inspired beers. We can empathize with their position, as it is their tradition, and we can see how in their eyes we might come across as interlopers trying to profit off of what they’ve been doing for ages. … Sure, we would have ideally liked to have drawn a more direct connection, à la “Méthode Gueuze”, or by extension “Méthode Lambic”. But we highly respect HORAL’s position and have no desire to create the impression that our beer is authentic Lambic or G(u)euze.”

As a conclusion Stuffings states: “The bottom line is that our 2017 three-year, G(u)euze inspired blend to be released this fall will not bear the moniker “Méthode Gueuze”. It will rather carry the style name “Méthode Traditionnelle”. Similarly, we will not continue to pursue the certification for Méthode Gueuze. However, we’ve continued to work with some of our most respected American colleagues producing spontaneously fermented beer on the Méthode Traditionnelle alternative. We still desire to see standards in America and elsewhere when brewers pursue Lambic inspired beer.”

About Jester King (from Wikipedia):

Jester King is a craft brewery in Austin, Texas that specializes in beer fermented with wild yeast. It is set on a 200-acre ranch about 18 miles west of Downtown Austin. Jester King was founded in 2010 by Jeff Stuffings and Michael Steffing.

In 2011 Jester King won a lawsuit against the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which had prohibited beverages with an alcohol content greater than 4% from being labeled as "beer". In honor of their legal campaign against regulation, the Brewers Association in 2014 presented Jester King with their F.X. Matt Defense of the Small Brewing Industry Award.

Due to the use of wild yeast, some beer batches can go bad: in late 2011, Jester King recalled a batch of its Commercial Suicide beer due to excessive gushing caused by over carbonation.

In January 2016, Jester King purchased 58 acres of land surrounding their facility. At the time, Stuffings said the company was planning to enlarge the brewery and add a winery, a distillery and a farm-to-table restaurant to the complex.

Share this article: