Blackberries are my absolute favourite fruit. I’m borderline obsessed with them from about May onwards, watching out for how they’re developing, whether my usual favourite spots are looking good.
I have Strong Opinions about them, too. For example, I strongly believe that urban blackberries are better than rural ones and that the best of all come from Walthamstow Marshes; should have Protected Designation of Origin status; and ought to be the subject of lengthy essays about terroir.
So when I came across Mûre Tilquin, which is a lambic with 260g blackberries per litre, at our local beer shop, Bottles & Books, I had to give it a go, even at a whopping £25 for a 75cl bottle.
It was marked 2018-19 with a science-fiction best before date of 2029.
It’s comforting to have this kind of ‘special beer’ in the stash – something that you know will be interesting, at least: IN CASE OF UNEXPECTED GLOOM, POP CORK. And, well, that moment came at the weekend.
There’s a fun bit of additional ceremony when we open this kind of beer because as well as drinking it, we need to take photos. What if it’s amazing and we didn’t? Can you imagine?
Cage off, It opened with a threatening gunshot pop and pushed back hard against the seal. Would it gush? No, the fizz was assertive but not out of control.
It poured a pretty, deep rose colour, and a pungent smell of brambles on the farm was noticeable from half a metre away.
It was, as you’d expect, rather sour. There was also an absence of sweetness and the finish was extremely dry, although not quite as mouth-puckering as most beers from Cantillon.
There was a strong oakiness but I didn’t pick up any blackberry. If someone had given me this blind, I don’t think I’d have even thought of my favourite fruit in passing. In fact, I might not have thought there was any fruit in it at all.
I enjoyed it anyway, though, over the course of hours, mostly because it reminded me of drinking Tilquin gueuze in Chez Moeder Lambic in Brussels.
In one of our very earliest blog posts, we wondered why you don’t see more blackberry beers, and reviewed a few that we had found.
I’ve often returned to that thought, particularly when it comes to lambic – if raspberries, then why not blackberries?
Having now added this data point, I’m more convinced of an answer we’ve received in the past: they ferment out too fully to retain any flavour.
But if you’re a brewer, pro or at home, who has managed to make a blackberry beer that proves otherwise, I’d love to know more.