Sour beer is an acquired taste that it took me a while to acquire. Much like black coffee and hoppy beer, it takes a while to grow on you. I was lucky enough last summer to attend a “Sour Beer Camp” with my homebrew club where we brewed a lambic-style beer outdoors and then let it wild inoculate over night in a makeshift coolship. Needless to say, people brought a lot of beer to try.
This is only a portion of the beer that showed up that weekend, but it was basically “forced exposure”. I got to try 50 or so sour beers, some I liked, some I didn’t. It gave me a basis to work out which styles I liked and which I didn’t and what I liked about the ones I liked.
Over time I’ve begun to realize that I really enjoy fruited Lambics. When you add cherries to a Lambic, it becomes Kriek (pronounced, to the best of my knowledge, very similar to “creek”). I’ve tried 6 or 7 different Krieks now and I wanted to share my thoughts on them.
Devil’s Kriek (2014) and Tahoma Kriek – Double Mountain Brewery: I got bottles of both of these at the same time as a thank you for judging a competition. This was long before I got into sour beers and my first introduction to the Kriek style. I remember them being surprisingly enjoyable. I scored the Devil’s Kriek 4 stars on Untappd, and I gave the Tahoma 3 stars and remarked “Not as good as the Devil’s Kriek”. I’d be interested to go back and try it again.
Cerasus (2013) – Logsden Farmhouse Ales: They describe this as a Flanders Style Red ale with cherries, as opposed to a Lambic style, but it’s an American interpretation of the Kriek style. I had this one at the Sour Beer camp, and despite only giving it 3.5 stars on Untappd, I labeled it as “Pretty Good”. I had some other fruited sours that weekend and that’s when I started realizing I enjoyed that style.
Kriek Boon (2012) – Brouwerij Boon (Belgium): I was able to try this one at the Abbey Bar in NW Portland which specializes in Belgian and European beers. I had this one in a bottle, which was disappointing, but not because of the beer itself. I ordered the Oude Kriek Boon, which was on the draft list but it turned out they had run out. They had a bottle of the regular Kriek in the cooler so I went with that. The Oude is 6.5%, the Kriek is 4%, yet the bottle was more expensive than the draft. Oh well. Regardless, the beer itself was marvelous. Great cherry flavor, slight tartness, a little bit sweet. 4.5 stars on Untappd.
Lindemans Kriek – Brouwerij Lindemans (Belgium): This beer is a grocery store staple. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this beer everywhere, dating back to before I was old enough to drink. I really enjoyed this, amazing cherry flavor, a slight tartness and a very sweet finish. I gave it 4.5 stars on Untappd. Had an interesting discussion later with some people how this is back sweetened and not very traditional for lambic, but is still a very remarkable beer on it’s own merits. Considering it’s found nationwide (to my knowledge, I’ve seen it everywhere) I imagine it’s designed to be very enjoyable to a mass market audience, perhaps even specifically a North American/US audience.
Kriek Mythology – Culmination Brewing: Labeled as a Lambic-inspired Sour American Red Ale on Cherries, this is another American interpretation of the style. This was a limited edition bottling from Culmination and I had to try it. It was phenomenal! Lightly tart, very balanced, great cherry flavor. 4.75 stars.
Yachats Kriek – Yachats Brewing and Farmstore: Last but certainly not least, the Kriek I had last night. I picked this bottle up a couple weeks ago when we were down in Yachats. They also list their Kriek as a Flanders style red ale with cherries. This was a very nice beer, the least cherry flavored, but well balanced. Tart but not bracing. No sweetness at all. Surprisingly refreshing. 4.75 stars.
I was looking on Wikipedia just now to see if there was a significant difference between a Flanders Style and a Lambic style and I discovered this interesting paragraph at the bottom.
“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. The fruit beers produced by the Liefmans Brewery, for example, use an oud bruin, rather than a lambic as a base.”
So, in essence, the Flanders style and American sour style cherry beers are still considered Kriek. All Lambics with sour cherries are Kriek, but not all Krieks are Lambics. Makes sense yeah?
The Lambic page also lists which of the breweries produce “Traditional” Lambics and which produced sweetened Lambics. Seems to be about half and half.
So there you have it, my favorite style of sour beer, sour beers with cherries!