Timmerman’s Brewery By: Chris Wise
With over 300 years of family tradition under their belts, Timmerman’s Brewery is the oldest Lambic Brewery still operating in Belgium today. Founded in 1702 in Itterbeek, just outside Brussels, by Jacobus Walravens, Timmerman’s was originally known as “The Mole Brewery.” Renamed Timmerman’s Brewery in honor of Frans Timmerman in the early 20th century, they remain one of only six breweries in the world to produce Lambic beers. All six of the breweries are located around Brussels due to the highly unusual way Lambic beers are fermented.
Unlike lagers or ales, which are fermented according to the carefully selected strains of yeast picked out by a brewer, Lambic beers use the naturally occurring yeast in the air of the Zenne valley of Belgium to ferment. By reacting to the yeast and microbacteria in the air around Brussels, the beer is spontaneously fermented and given its unique sour finish. Since the brewers do not control how much yeast is involved or when it is introduced, the process can take much longer than other styles, with many taking multiple years to complete a batch.
The process begins by filling grain silos with up to 30,000 kg of grain, after which the grain is then crushed on machines Timmerman’s has been using since 1911. Priding them on using traditional machines in their brewing process, most of the equipment has not been changed since the early 20th century. In the crusher, the grain’s core and husk are separated, and then conveyed to a malt hopper, where the ingredients are stored before heading to the thickening tank.
This thickening is achieved by heating the tank with water at 195°F till the mash reaches the desired thickness. The process then continues through a filtration tank, where the mash is meticulously filtered and washed in order to extract as much as sugar as possible from the grains. This sugar will be transformed into alcohol during maturation. The process then moves onto the shallow cooler, where the fermenting takes place.
The shallow cooler is the origin of the most crucial and mysterious phase of the Lambic’s production. Here the mash will be naturally cooled to 68°F, in contact with the ambient air, and the two micro organisms (Brettanomyces Bruxellensis & Brettanomyces Lambicus) will blend into the mash, provoking the magic of natural spontaneous fermentation, without the addition of yeast. These micro organisms are only found in a 10 mile radius around Brussels, a phenomenon that remains unexplainable to this day, even for the greatest of specialists.
The cooled mash is transferred to the maturation rooms, where two kinds of kegs can be discovered: Casks (6500 litres) and Pipes (650 litres), kegs made of 100% oak and chestnut. The Lambic traditionally matures in these casks or pipes, many of them once used for Port Wine. To transform all the yeast, the entire fermentation process can take two to three years. Fermentation is a chain reaction that clarifies the complex flavour and odour of Lambic. Depending on the weather, fermentation begins after several days.
Depending on the style of Lambic, the process can either end here, or continue in the addition of more ingredients, but only after the Lambic brew is allowed to fully finish fermenting. Some Lambics have fruit added to them, such as raspberries, cherries, or strawberries. Timmerman’s then ages these fruit Lambics six more months after the fruit has been added, to allow the fruit to naturally dissolve completely. By using real fruit and allowing it dissolve completely, the taste of the fruit is added but not the sweetness, so the sour finish of the brew is preserved. Other Lambics are known as Gueuze Lambics combine Lambics of different recipes and ages to result in a very interesting twist on the style.
With over 300 years brewing experience, Timmerman’s has consistently produced stunning beers, unique not only in the unusual way they are fermented but also in their flavor profile. While some beer drinkers used to lagers and ales may not be immediately know what to make of beers, which pride themselves on tart and sour flavors, these delicious brews, will win over the most skeptical beer drinker. If you’re trying your first Lambic beer, try one of the fruit styles first which have a milder flavor profile compared to the more tart styles. Timmerman’s offers a wide range of Lambics, which will please everyone from the beginner to the most experienced Lambic beer drinker.
Faithfully reflecting the distinct color and flavor of raspberries, with subtle traces of lambicus acidity, this beer is matured in 100% oak casks. This recipe’s wonderful flavor reaches its peak with its intensely fresh after-taste and is A great introduction to the world of Lamic beers.
Owing its sweet, fruity bouquet and tart flavor to the distinct Nordic sour cherry, this Kriek beer is light yet flavorful and easy to drink. Adding whole cherries, pit and all, gives the beer an almond flavor, which balances the tartness, both naturally occur in Lambics and from the Nordic cherries. This beer uses more cherries per liter than any other beer; the fruity flavors balance the earthy flavors nicely. This beer is fermented an additional six months once bottled to achieve the perfect taste profile.
It’s light and fruity freshness comes from an abundance of delicious strawberries, which first catch the nose upon opening the bottle, then with every sip that follows. Its taste is constant and spreads very quickly in the mouth to finish his journey on a touch more fruity than sweet. Another great addition in Timmerman’s fruit infused Lambics.
By adding spices such as coriander and dried orange peel, a fruity beer, light, cleverly subtle and “spicy” is obtained. Deliberately cloudy and aged at least one year, this recipe is brewed in the style of traditional farmers in the region by the Lambic with wheat to achieve a truly unique Lambic. A bit sourer than the other “fruit Lambics,” this is a good introduction into the world of sour beers.
Upon visiting the United States and being amazed by the amount of seasonal beers offered, Timmerman’s decided to try out this inspired Lambic. Aged between 8 months to a year, this recipe combines earthy pumpkin aromas and delicate fall spices to produce a crisp, sweet acidity followed by a subtle dryness to finish.
Bourgogne Des Flanders
Brewed by Timmerman’s while the brewery in Rogue is finished, this Lambic starts with a high gravity, high alcohol content Belgian Brown Ale and infuse it with 1-year-old Timmerman’s Lambic. The mixture is then fermented in a port barrel for another 8 months, and the result is a Lambic with a somewhat sweet depth of Belgian ale to start, with rich toffee flavors and a tart finish.
Fermented in the bottle, this Lambic produces a light and crisp beer with a sour, cherry explosion. This recipe is one of the most labor intensive of Timmerman’s products, with years of work going into every batch, but the beer will keep in the bottle for up to 12 years!
A mixture of 3-year-old Lambic with 1-year-old Lambic, this gueuze spontaneously ferments inside the bottle, and produces a sparkly, tart and citrusy Lambic. The most striking flavor profile among all the Lambics, this recipe highlights the effects of the mysterious spontaneous fermentation indigenous only to this region. This Lambic will continue to age well for 20 years after bottled.