Boon Oude Geuze
Urinal mostly, with a bit more sourness than the 3F, but not much. Frank Boon said their brew days last about twelve and a half hours, and the beer is 18 months old on average at bottling. Boon does most of
their aging in large oak tuns unlike the other two who use smaller barrels primarily.
Drie Fonteinen J&J Blauw
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek
old Belgian raspberries).
Cantillon Pinot d'Aunis
This one was aged for 61 months in used Cognac barrels in the "optimal" part of the cellar where the temperature and humidity are perfect. It had a big Cognac/wood/barrel character and a nice sharp, lightly-acetic, base (after that long I was surprised there wasn't more earthy/fruity funk). Virtually no carbonation, this was unblended straight from the oak. 50 Degrees North 4 Degrees East was a similar release, but was blended and contained beer that spent only 2 years in barrels.
Spirit'Armand (Drie Fonteinen Distilled Gueuze)
Sharp and boozy, but I got just a hint of Gueuze fruitiness. I'm not a big fan of hard liquor, but there is certainly a chance that this could be refined into an interesting beverage. It was made from heat damaged Gueuze that resulted from a thermostat malfunction at the warehouse. The short video below is of Armand talking about it (again thanks to Ryan).
Several more videos have been posted on YouTube.
Sadly the nitty-gritty of wort production, inoculation, aging etc... wasn't really touched on. The questions from the audience tended to be on pretty bland subjects (one person asked three times about why there are beers labeled Oude Kriek, but not Oude Framboise... Government red tape). There was also too much discussion about why Cantillon isn't part of HORAL (Jean doesn't want to be part of a group started to protect traditional Lambic brewing with breweries that do mostly sweetened Lambics). The importer for Boon beers also wanted to rehash whether or not the awful Boon Kriek had artificial sweeteners in it (who cares when a beer is that unpleasant to drink?). Apparently the better/unsweetened Boon Lambics only just got import approval, so they weren't available for this event (to contrast that Jean mentioned that several of the Cantillon beers served "Do not exist.").
One of the more interesting topics was what the three breweries had to do during the lean years of Lambic sales to stay in business. Cantillon opened their museum, Drie Fonteienen opened a restaurant, and Boon made more commercial products. It shows just how poor the market was for these beers as recently as 20 years ago, it was also nice to hear all of them express appreciation for the enthusiasm (deep pockets) of American beer lovers.
Jean mentioned that he really enjoyed a rhubarb lambic (Zhwanze 2008) that he had made, seems like something worth a gallon test batch (although I didn't care for Haandbakk). It was great in general to hear that there is still that drive for experimentation and improvement, not just reliance on tradition.
After the three hour event we made a quick stop at Monk's Cafe for samples of Lost Abbey's Duck Duck Gooze (their take on a Gueuze) and Veritas 007 (Duck Duck Gooze aged on Cabernet Franc grapes from what I understand) before heading back to DC. Both beers were excellent, but not as good as the Belgians. The DDG had some interesting funky complexities, and a nice bright acidity that wasn't too heavy handed. The Veritas was more acidic, with the subtle wine character mingling nicely with the fruity complexities of the base beer. It was terrific that Monk's was only charging $6 a tulip for these two when bottles go for $30 at the brewery and several times that on eBay. They had some stronger/darker beers on as well (Angel's Share and the Bruery's Melange #3), but after a night of light/tart beers a sip of each was more than enough for me (sadly Oude Tart from the Bruery event the previous night had kicked before we arrived).
A very inspiring night indeed, time to start a renewed effort at making my own blended sour beers.