Framboise or Raspberry ales are a lambic style of ale, “Framboise” being French for Raspberry. Lambic is a very distinctive type of beer brewed traditionally in the Pajottenland region of Belgium and in Brussels itself at the Cantillon Brewery and museum. Lambic is now mainly consumed after refermentation, resulting in derived beers such as Gueuze or Kriek lambic.
Unlike conventional ales and lagers, which are fermented by carefully cultivated strains of brewer’s yeasts, lambic beer is produced by spontaneous fermentation: it is exposed to the wild yeasts and bacteria that are said to be native to the Senne valley, in which Brussels lies. It is this unusual process which gives the beer its distinctive flavour: dry, vinous, and cidery, usually with a sour aftertaste.
Today the beer is generally brewed from a grist containing approximately 70% barley malt and 30% unmalted wheat. When the wort has cooled, it is left exposed to the open air so that fermentation may occur spontaneously. After the fermentation process starts, the lambic is siphoned into old port or sherry barrels (of chestnut or oak) from Portugal or Spain (some of the brewers prefer used wine barrels.) The lambic is left to ferment and mature for one to two or even three years. It forms a “velo de flor” of yeast that gives some protection from oxidation, in a similar way to vin jaune and sherry; the barrels are not topped up.
Fruit lambics are usually bottled with secondary fermentation. Although fruit lambics are among the most famous Belgian fruit beers, the use of names such as kriek, framboise or frambozen, cassis, etc. does not necessarily imply that the beer is made from lambic. Many of the non-traditional fruit beers derived from lambic that were commercialized in the last decades are considered to be low quality products by many beer enthusiasts.These products are typically artificially sweetened and based on syrups instead of fresh fruit, resulting in a taste experience that is quite remote from the traditional products. Some of the well known raspberry ales are Lindeman’s Framboise, Amsterdam Framboise, Mort Subite Framboise and the above pictured St. Ambroise Framboise.