Podcast Episode 364: Lambic is Science, Not Sorcery, for Thomas Vandelanotte of Timmermans

For the brewmaster of Timmermans—the three-century-old lambic brewery in Itterbeek, just west of Brussels—studying and understanding the dynamics of spontaneous fermentation and wood-aging is the key to making beer with captivating flavor.

Jamie Bogner Jun 14, 2024 - 6 min read

Podcast Episode 364: Lambic is Science, Not Sorcery, for Thomas Vandelanotte of Timmermans  Primary Image

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Mythmaking and superstition may play a role in others brewers’ approaches to making lambic, but for Thomas Vandelanotte—brewmaster for Belgian breweries Timmermans, Bourgogne de Flandres, and Waterloo—science is a far better tool for achieving great-tasting beer that people want to drink over and over again.

“I think it’s important, first of all, to not talk about lambic as a wonder of nature, but it’s something that can be completely scientifically followed-up,” Vandelanotte says.
To that end, he and his team have engaged in deep study of their own brewery environment, the dynamics at play through fermentation and aging, and every barrel or foeder that finds its way into an oude gueuze blend. Their goal is balanced beer—flavorful, citric, not too acidic—and they’re intentional in both adhering to the historical parameters of lambic brewing while also using all the modern abalyticak tools at their disposal.

In this episode, Vandelanotte discusses:

  • the 118 different yeasts they’ve found in their environment and fermenting beer
  • growth dynamics over time of different yeasts in lambic
  • the similarity of young fermenting lambic to New England IPA
  • using oxidized hop pellets without destroying what’s good about the hops themselves, because “lambic is not the [trash] bin of the hops industry”
  • avoiding low-oil hop varieties and embracing hops of various origins, including U.S. hops
  • the origin of barnyard character in lambic
  • using a variety of barrel sizes and foeders for different fermentation and wood impacts
  • analysis of foeders and barrels to build statistical basis for a theoretical blend that’s confirmed or adjusted through sensory
  • flavor differences in types of acid that don’t track to titrations
  • open fermentation at Bourgogne de Flandres to drive ester production
  • fermentation dynamics in oud bruin

And more.

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Jamie Bogner is the Cofounder and Editorial Director of Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine®. Email him at [email protected].

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