Last year, Danish gypsy brewer Mikkeller approached Boon, one of Belgium's most prolific and respected lambic producers, to produce a gueuze — a blend of lambics of varying age, refermented in the bottle like Champagne — that contained a small proportion of lambic from Boon's old brew house, which ceased production in 2013.
The use of extra-aged lambic gave the beer an especially dry character, and it was given the punny name of Bone Dry — bone being the correct pronunciation of Boon in this case. To use up the old stock left over from the Bone Dry bottlings, and in celebration of its 40th anniversary, Boon created a new blend called Oude Geuze Boon Black Label. (Yes, Boon spells gueuze differently from the traditional spelling, for whatever reason.) It features a blend of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old lambics (the three-year being from the old brew house), with label art modeled after the original 1970s design.
I was sent a bottle of Black Label, courtesy of its distributor. While I don't actively solicit samples, breweries often send them my way. Many are good, and some are great. Oude Geuze Boon Black Label falls firmly into the latter category.
Black Label opens with a mildly musty, black pepper nose. The beer is effervescent, pouring light gold, with a thin head that dissipates quickly. The flavor is, well, bone dry, with flavors of black pepper and lemon. It's clean, balanced and expertly executed — in the same league as gueuze from Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, De Cam and Tilquin.
Like other interesting Boon blends, such as Bone Dry and Vat 77, Black Label is a limited release, so you may not find it on your first stop. Keep looking, though, and you'll be rewarded with a world-class gueuze, minus the hype and price that often come with the territory.
Justin Grant, Times correspondent