19 November 2008

KOTBR #60 - It's Mostly About the Uplands (Lambic Post)

You may recall that a while back Gina and I stopped in at Upland and picked up four varieties of their Lambics: Kiwi, Strawberry, Cherry, and Peach. During a stopover at my mom's house that very same day, we opened a bottle of the strawberry. And it was ok - but there just wasn't enough strawberry flavor there to make any of us fall in love.

So we tried it again with the Knights. And I'd say we got about the same result. A sour-smelling oaky nose leads to a water + alcohol + oak flavor. Would you guess this is a strawberry lambic without reading in on the label? I'm not so sure. And I think that if you buy a strawberry lambic, it's probably natural to expect some strawberry flavor. We didn't get much, and I think the score reflects that. I gave it 2.9 Mugs.

Gina: 2.4 Mugs
Jess: 3.4 Mugs
Rodney: 2.7 Mugs
Jason: 2.0 Mugs
Jim: 3.4 Mugs
Chris 3.4 Mugs
Mike 2.9 Mugs

Upland Strawberry Lambic Total Score: 2.88 Mugs

I've also been given the task of writing up Upland's Kiwi Lambic. You may know the story on this one - Upland's Kiwi cask exploded, meaning that only 40 bottles of this variety made it into the hands of the general public. Luckily, Gina made a call to Upland on Day 1 Hour 1(ish) of the reservation period, and we were amongst the 40 lucky individuals.

Naturally the excessive demand for rare beer drove this one right into "stupid expensive" levels on eBay... at least two bottles went for right around $155. A fool and his money are soon parted. A KOTBR and his/her beer are soon drunk.

Stupid expensive indeed.

Writing the review for the kiwi is remarkably similar to the strawberry. Oak and sour, very little fruit flavor. In fact, we should probably put some of the widely available strawberry variety in a kiwi bottle, add a hint of green food coloring, reseal it, and sell it on eBay to an idiot.

Ps. If you're reading from outside Upland's distribution area, please know that these beers are sitting on shelves all over Indiana. There's no need to buy them for $40 on eBay. Besides, that's illegal.

Mike: 2.9 Mugs
Gina: 2.4 Mugs
Jess: 3.4 Mugs
Rodney: 3.1 Mugs
Jason: 1.8 Mugs
Jim: 3.4 Mugs
Chris: 3.4 Mugs

Upland Kiwi Lambic Total Score: 2.91 Mugs

The most striking aspect of Upland's Blueberry Lambic is the color. It's a cloudy maroon color with a colorful head. The nose was similar to the strawberry and kiwi, and unfortunately the flavor was too. In the lineup, I wouldn't be able to tell what fruit was supposed to be represented in this lambic. I am interested to see if some age on them will help better define the fruit characteristics. I give it 2.5 mugs.

Gina: 2.5 Mugs
Jess: 3.6 Mugs
Rodney: 3.1 Mugs
Jason: 2.7 Mugs
Jim: 2.8 Mugs
Chris: 2.8 Mugs
Mike: 3.0 Mugs

Upland Blueberry Lambic Total Score: 2.93 Mugs

The Upland Blackberry batted number 3 in the Lambic lineup.  By the time we poured it, my tongue was having a battle with the rest of me.  It was screaming at the top of its lungs, poised to drop out of my mouth and on to the floor, where it would crawl away searching for more mercifully mellow flavors.  

Still, I was the #1 Shock Tart fan in my neighborhood when I was a kid, so my sour-loving brain said, "More!"  So there was the Upland Blackberry Lambic, pouring into my glass with a cloudy copperish hue.  The nose was quite astringent like the nose of the Upland Strawberry and Blueberry, which were the first two beers we sampled.  But unlike the Strawberry and the Blueberry, which had a noticeable oak character in the nose, the Blackberry had an odd metallic note to the nose.  For me, the Blackberry was the tartest of all the Lambics we tasted.  The sourness was nearly over-the-top, but I quite liked the extreme that it presented.  No trace of any blackberry flavor in this, though.  Nonetheless, a solid sour beer, and the best of the Uplands.  3.90 mugs.

Gina: 3.6 Mugs
Jess: 3.8 Mugs
Rodney: 3.25 Mugs
Jason: 1.8 Mugs
Jim: 3.9 Mugs
Chris: 3.2 Mugs
Mike: 3.0 Mugs

Upland Blackberry Lambic Total Score: 3.22 Mugs

If you've ever wanted dried apricots covered in that tart sour patch kids sugar, pureed into a delicious peach juice and fermented - this is perfect for you. It was pretty bland in color and in smell, but the flavor was delicious and reminded me of when we used to eat the sour patch kids coating in the bottom of the bag after eating all the candy. A great introductory Lambic for anyone who is a fan of peaches, this one gets a 3.9 mug rating from me.

Gina: 3.4 Mugs
Jess: 3.9 Mugs
Rodney: 3.2 Mugs
Jason: 2.9 Mugs
Jim: 3.1 Mugs
Chris: 3.7 Mugs
Mike: 3.2 Mugs

Upland Peach Lambic Total Score: 3.34 Mugs

There's a scribbling between my notes for the Blackberry and Kiwi that says "sour fatigue...." My tongue was saying, "Enough! Cleanse me with imperial stout!" Three beers later, my mouth was so beaten down that it was reduced to telling me things like, "uhhh...I taste....lambic? and cherry? Is that good enough?" I relented and just started writing down what others were saying. Some comments were odd -- Jess: "tuna fish juice!" -- others were disturbing -- Jim: "there's a definite fecal smell" -- and some were actually useful -- Rod: "definitely red grapefruit." Ultimately, I decided it was better than the Kiwi but not as good as the Peach, so I split the difference on my scores and gave it 3.55 Mugs.

Gina: 2.2 Mugs
Jess: 2.0 Mugs
Rodney: 3.4 Mugs
Jason: 2.4 Mugs
Jim: 3.0 Mugs
Chris: 3.55 Mugs
Mike: 3.2 Mugs

Upland Cherry Lambic Total Score: 2.82 Mugs

Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Kriek

This lambic had a moldy, bleu cheese kind of nose. It had a sweet, but puckering mouthfeel with a funky, cherry taste. I really, really liked the combination of the wild yeast flavor and the fruit, so I gave it 4.3 Mugs.

Gina: 4.3 Mugs
Jess: 4.2 Mugs
Rodney: 4.3 Mugs
Jason: 1.0 Mugs
Jim: 4.5 Mugs
Chris: 4.2 Mugs
Mike: 3.27 Mugs

Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Kriek Lambic Total Score: 3.68 Mugs

After drinking six lambics from Upland and a kriek, this beer gave me whiplash. No sourness. No tartness. No anything to make you think lambic. If you drank this in a blind taste test, you would not think lambic. You would not think beer. It is too sweet for that. You would think banana soda. Or some other liquid version of bananas. It was like drinking fried bananas.

I once spoke of Brugge’s Tripel de Ripple and referred to a Gwen Stefani song. Specifically that this shit is bananas. But in the banana world, this beer tops the Tripel. It ain’t no hollaback girl.

(Hey Jason, 2005 just emailed. They want their lame ass Gwen Stefani song references back…)

The banana love fest that is going on in this bottle will thrill many. I was thrilled that it wasn’t sour or tart, but I’m not a big fan of bananas either. If you like bananas… and I mean REALLY like bananas… give this a shot.

Myself, I’m left to wonder: what would this beer be like poured into a mug filled with vanilla ice cream? It might be pretty tasty. But until then, I give this beer a rating of two bunches.

Gina: 2.8 Mugs
Jess: 4.5 Mugs
Rodney: 2.8 Mugs
Jason: 2.0 Mugs
Jim: 3.0 Mugs
Chris: 2.7 Mugs
Mike: 3.13 Mugs

Chapeau Banana Lambic Total Score: 2.99 Mugs

Hey Beer Advocate, check this out! Before everyone craps their pants, let's remember that the mixing of lambics is completely normal. Gueuze is the mixture of old and young lambic. Standard lambics are typically mixed with fruit syrups. So there is nothing wrong with us mixing 6 Upland lambics together into one super lambic. NOTHING. And after trying it, I regret nothing. Overall I found the Upland lambics strong in lambic flavor but somewhat lacking in fruit flavors. Good, but they could be better (and I don't regret pre-ordering all 7). However, when combined, much like Voltron or Captain Planet, they become an eruption of complex fruit flavors.

There used to be an image here, but my domain expired.

The aroma is that of a mixed fruit jam, strong in red, juicy fruits such as raspberry, cherry and strawberry. Lemon juice, kiwi, peaches and pears all come through in the flavor profile along with a very prominent pink grapefruit character. Bitter lemon zest and that white membrane found on the inside of citrus fruits, particularly oranges, create a very dry sourness. This combination was bursting with fruit flavors, and while it was quite a bit sweeter than most of the individual lambics, it still carried through that funky yeast sourness that lambics are famous for. 3.7 mugs

Gina: 2.0 Mugs
Jess: 1.8 Mugs
Rodney: 3.7 Mugs
Jason: 2.0 Mugs
Jim: 1.0 Mugs
Chris: 3.5 Mugs
Mike: 3.2 Mugs

Upland Lambic Mix Total Score: 2.46 Mugs


  1. The Schlitz pitcher totally validates this post. I'm passing on the Upland Lambics. Thanks for the review!!!

  2. Don't let some of our reviews discourage you. I would strongly encourage people not to write off the Uplands. While I'm no Lambic expert, I'm positive that these beers are fairly true to style. In addition, I'm guessing that some of these beers could use a little age before reaching full blossom in flavor.

    In short, I'd urge folks to give at least one of Upland Lambics a try. I'm heading to Kahn's tonight to see if any Blackberrys are left.

  3. I'd gladly part with our kiwi lambic for $150. I thought it was good, but not $150 good.

    I think the main takeaway from the back to back reviews is that the lambics are all solid lambics, but we had the impression that they would have a bigger fruit character. Perhaps that's why I liked the 6-way so much?

  4. I had a pretty similar experience to the Upland's I've as. I've had both the Cherry and the Blackberry. The cherry was not balanced enough, I tasted more oak than cherry. The blackberry was my favorite, and the oak and the fruit seemed to balance, even compliment each other.

    If anyone sees any peach out there (our peach was somehow allowed to be purchased by 2 people, leaving none for everyone else), I'd love to get my hands on one. Seeing as how I really enjoy Dogfish Head's Festina Peche, I'm sure I'd love the Upland Peach Lambic.

    On lambic notes, if anyone is a fan of Boon, stock up on them quick. I spoke with the local distributor last week and they said Boon has lost their export license and will not be available in the US for an indeterminate amount of time.

    Last I saw, we had a little blackberry left at Kahn's. We only had about 2 1/2 cases total of various mixed flavors.


  5. I'm not crazy about lambics to begin with. I wanted to see what teh Roundtable had to say about them, but I wouldn't buy a bottle on my own with or without a review. If someone has a bottle of Upland Lambic, I'd try it and probably make the same face I make when I eat sour patch kids-*squinch*

  6. Big Tee - Nice to see you again!

  7. The first thing I thought when I read this is, it's a lambic, it's not supposed to taste like strawberry juice. And to further age it would not allow more fruit flavor to blossom, it would allow the yeast and other microorganisms more time to eat more of the fruit and go in the opposite direction - more sourness, more complexity. That's the goal of lambic from my "studies" of it, not fruity sweetness.

  8. anon - I don't think anybody wishes these lambics were sweeter. Lambics with fruit additions are often much more fruit-forward than these Upland versions, and it has nothing to do with sweetness. You can find fruit flavors in dry-as-a-bone wines; same with lambic.

  9. Was perusing the sit and just read this dusty piece. I thought the Hanssens Oude Kriek was easily one of the sourest beers I've tasted, with no banana flavor. The only thing banana about it is that THAT shit is bananas. Like bananas-good. So cherry, soo mouth-puckering. But to each his own! Keep on keepin' on.

  10. Ben, you'll have to excuse Jason. He's our sour beer Philistine. Consequently, he has no idea what he's talking about when it comes to sour beers. But we love him anyway.

  11. What Jim is trying to say is that I am the only one here with taste! Y'all can keep your sour beers.