Though historians aren’t certain when beer was first made, there is a general consensus that spontaneous fermentation started it all. Mesopotamian clay tablets dating back 5000 years indicate that a beer called sikaru was made and that it was nearly identical to modern-day Belgian lambic – making lambic the oldest existing beer style, and also the only purely spontaneously-fermented beer style in the world.
It is thought that the name “lambic” has its origins in the Belgian village of Lembeek, which in its early days had 43 breweries for a mere 600 inhabitants. (A nice ratio we’d say.)
Some also believe the name may be derived from the French word for “still,” alambic. Duke Jean IV of the Belgian province of Brabant is often credited with the idea of boiling barley and hops in a still – and both the name of the beer and the town in which it was made became known as Alambic.
For more on Lambic beers, we recommend Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition