On Méthode Gueuze, The Disagreement with HORAL, and A New Way Forward

This post is to announce the resolution of the disagreement with HORAL over the term “Méthode Gueuze” and a new way forward for categorizing Lambic or G(u)euze inspired beer made outside of the traditional region of Belgium.  

At least in recent years, if not longer ago, there has been some uncertainty and uneasiness about what brewers outside of Brussels and the Pajottenland should call (or not call) their Lambic or G(u)euze inspired beer. By and large, brewers have the utmost respect for this tradition and do not intend to offend it. The struggle comes from attempting to say where the inspiration came from, and how the beer was made, without using the actual terms “Lambic” or “G(u)euze” in the name or style description for the beer. Few, if any, styles of beer conjure up   passionate responses on this topic the way that Lambic does. For instance, brewers all over the world call their beer Pilsner without the brewers of Bohemia taking exception.

The passion behind Lambic terminology is certainly warranted, and it is completely understandable for Lambic brewers to feel protective of their history, tradition, and terminology. There is perhaps no style of beer more closely associated with place than Lambic. Not only are there centuries of history rooting the beer to a specific region, but the method of production and nature of the fermentation leads to beer that is uniquely tied to place. It is both expected and admirable that the traditional producers of Lambic hold tightly to the terminology behind their product and its cultural heritage.

Last year, there was an attempt to deal with the issue of what to call Lambic or G(u)euze inspired beer made outside the traditional region. The attempt was the term “Méthode Gueuze”, and by logical extension, the term “Méthode Lambic”. Méthode Gueuze was meant to describe beer made in accordance with the traditional process of making G(u)euze, but in a geographic location outside the traditional region. Its creation can be analogized to “Méthode Champenoise” in the wine world.

Ultimately, the term “Méthode Gueuze” (and by extension “Méthode Lambic”) proved unacceptable for a portion of the traditional Lambic producers, particularly the members of the High Council for Artisanal Lambic Beers (HORAL). The disagreement over Méthode Gueuze came to a head earlier this year, and since then, an effort has been made to reach a consensus.

When Méthode Gueuze was created, it had two goals it sought to accomplish: 1) Provide stylistic terminology for non-Belgian brewers making beer in accordance with the traditional method of producing G(u)euze; and 2) Achieve this first goal in a manner that was respectful of and acceptable to the traditional producers in Belgium. While Méthode Gueuze arguably succeeded on its first goal, it is obvious that it failed on its second. A solution to the terminology issue that draws the ire of a significant swath of the traditional Lambic community is just not acceptable.

It was in this spirit that HORAL was consulted in coming up with an alternative for Méthode Gueuze. In reaching an alternative, it became very apparent that HORAL highly objected to the specific words “Lambic” and “G(u)euze” being used in the name and/or style description for the beer. They felt that confusion would arise and that their tradition would be watered down and co-opted. Again, while this was never the intent of Méthode Gueuze, the effort to solve the Lambic terminology issue must be deemed a failure if the result is acrimony and discord between non-Belgian brewers and traditional Lambic makers.

While cooperating with HORAL and treating their concerns seriously, HORAL proposed an alternative to Méthode Gueuze, which satisfies the two previously stated goals. That alternative is “Méthode Traditionnelle”. Méthode Traditionnelle is designed to refer to spontaneously fermented beers made in accordance with the traditional method, but outside the traditional region.

HORAL has no issue with defining Méthode Traditionnelle as beer inspired by “Lambic” or “G(u)euze”. In other words, they have no issue with using “Lambic” and “G(u)euze” by name in defining the term. Their specific issue is using “Lambic” or “G(u)euze” in the name or style description for the beer. Méthode Traditionnelle clearly does not do this. Thus, the term was constructively proposed by HORAL as an alternative solution to a problem everyone agreed existed -- that is, what to call beer made in the traditional method outside the traditional region.

The intent has always been to truthfully and accurately refer to where the inspiration and production methods come from (Lambic and G(u)euze), and to do so in a manner that is respectful of the traditional producers. While Méthode Gueuze was intended to accomplish both of these facets, the hope and expectation is that Méthode Traditionnelle will be successful in its place. Thank you very much to all the producers of traditional Lambic and G(u)euze for entertaining this topic and working cooperatively toward a positive outcome that leaves no one feeling upset or acrimonious.

 

Defining & Contextualizing A New Way Forward

The paragraphs and points below define Méthode Traditionnelle, as well as the context in which it fits. In terms of its definition, it is important to first note what it is not. It is not a stand in for all spontaneously fermented beer. Méthode Traditionnelle merely refers to the relatively small subset of 100% spontaneously fermented beer made according to the process and tradition of Belgian Lambic and G(u)euze.

There is a world of creativity and opportunities when it comes to spontaneous fermentation. There really should be no limiting factors aside from no yeast or bacteria pitched. Méthode Traditionnelle is not designed to limit creativity or choices, and it should not be viewed as superior to any other type of spontaneously fermented beer. It is primarily a functional term used to solve the issue of referring to Lambic and G(u)euze style beer, without using the words “Lambic” and “G(u)euze” by name.

Also, Méthode Traditionnelle should not be viewed as an effort to “clone” Belgium. Differences in water chemistry, grain composition, hop varieties, microflora, and climate obviously exist all over the world. The fact that Méthode Traditionnelle is spontaneously fermented basically guarantees that it will be distinct from Belgian Lambic and G(u)euze. This is a good thing! Regional variance and connection to place are attributes that make all forms of spontaneous fermentation special and interesting, and Méthode Traditionnelle, despite its connection to the Belgian tradition, is no different.

If your brewery is interested in these traditional methods of spontaneous fermentation, consider this an open invitation to use these new certification marks in accordance with the guidelines. To view the standards and register to use the marks, please click HERE