It is a collaboration of epic, beer-geek-dream proportions: Belgium’s Cantillon Brewery, revered for its lambics, a traditional Belgian style sour, spontaneously fermented beer, joined California’s Russian River Brewing Co. and Maine’s Allagash Brewing to produce a blend of three spontaneously fermented beers from around the world. Called Wild Friendship Blend, it contains three-year-old Cantillon Lambic, two-and-a-half-year-old Allagash Coolship and two-year-old Russian River Sonambic.
Jean Van Roy, the brewmaster at Cantillon, reached out to the American brewers because he wanted to do something special for Quintessence, an annual celebration of Cantillon and guest beers paired with food, and because he has always expressed interest in the spontaneously fermented beers being produced by American breweries, Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins told All About Beer Magazine.
“We obviously said yes, quite quickly,” said Perkins. “Jean’s a multi-generational brewer at Cantillon, but he’s also got this innovative edge to him. He’s always wanted to try new beers, new techniques that go out of the standard style.”
Perkins, along with Allagash founder Rob Tod and Russian River co-founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo, also attended the Quintessence celebration in May where the beer was released. Cilurzo gushed about the experience while speaking at a panel at the Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose.
“Cantillon is considered one of the greatest lambic breweries in the world—is the greatest, the most known. … I think Rob and I kept pinching ourselves that we were there, not only pouring our beers, but we got to blend beer with the Van Roy family,” he said.
Any visit to Cantillon, or a conversation with Van Roy, can trigger inspiration, said Perkins. But while they revere Cantillon’s techniques and beers, the goal of Allagash, a Belgian-inspired brewery, was never to copy its lambics.
“We never have been in the business of copying what they were doing. That’s never been the intent. The intent was to see if we could produce spontaneously fermented beer with a coolship in Portland, Maine,” said Perkins. “But more than anything, seeing the way Cantillon continues to balance this tradition and innovation is pretty inspiring.”
While it does not have any plans to release Wild Friendship Blend for retail sales, Allagash acquired several kegs of Cantillon lambic and will be doing its own blend at the brewery in Portland, with plans for a ticketed event sometime this fall or early winter, said Perkins.
This article appears in the September 2014 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here for a free trial of our next issue.