Up a Kriek

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.

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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!

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Into the Woods Part 3

The warm weather has majorly slowed down the consumption of high alcohol, dark, barrel aged beers, but there’s been a handful here and there.  I don’t know how many “parts” to this post there will be since I have several more barrel aged beers waiting in the wings, so this may just become a regular ongoing feature.

2016 Two Beers Overhang Porter – This was a bottle that I brought home from judging the Best of Craft Beer awards and happened to be the last one we cracked open.  This beer had an aroma of dark dry fruit and faint vanilla, the flavor was also heavy on dark dry fruit and slight oak.  I remarked it was not bad, but I felt it was slightly past it’s prime. Interestingly, I tasted this at the competition and gave it 2.75 stars on Untappd and said it was a huge diacetyl bomb.  I obviously forgot this fact when I got a bottle to bring home.  The bottle we had at home though was much better.  I gave that one 4 stars. (4 stars).

2016 McMenamins Longest Night of the Year – Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine.  Ironically enough we ended up drinking this one a couple of days before the summer solstice.  (Also interesting, mine is still the most recent check in on Untappd, so apparently no one else had the willpower to hold on to a bottle that long.)  This one had dark fruit, brown sugar and whiskey in the aroma coupled with sweet dark fruit, vanilla and whisky in the flavor.  Clear red color, highly carbonated (surprising for a BA Barleywine) very boozy with a lot of warming.  Not a normal summer drink, but it was still very nice.  (4.75 stars).

2016 Ex Novo Kill the Sun – Bourbon barrel aged Russian Imperial Stout.  I got to try this one over the weekend at the Ex Novo 3rd Anniversary party and man was it good.  This one had a ton of dark dry fruit in the aroma and flavor, basically tasted like raisins.  Good whiskey character, pretty boozy.  Should continue to improve with age.  I wish I had a couple bottles of this to stash away.  (4.75 stars)

Culmination Pinot Evil II – Barrel aged Tripel with wine grapes.  I love Belgian style beers, so the last time I was at Culmination I had to try this. They don’t specify the barrel used, but with wine grapes added I’m assuming it was also aged in a wine barrel.  It didn’t give off any major whiskey notes.  Wine barrel aging of beer is becoming more popular.  This beer started out with a sharp tang of acidity that I would assume was from the grapes, and then it finished with that traditional bubblegum sweetness of a Belgian beer.  It wasn’t sour, but it had just a little bit of a bite to it.  (4.75 stars)

Oregon Mead and Cider Co. Free Press Pinot Gris Barrel Aged Frankencyser – Say that three times fast… So this was a really interesting sample on my taster flight at Oregon Mead and Cider (Formerly Stung Fermented).  Cyser is a blend of cider and mead, and this one was a blend of whatever was left in the bottom of the tanks after a bottling run of their standard Free Press Cider and Worker Mead.  This was blended (ratio unknown, maybe half and half?) and then aged in a Pinot Gris barrel.  I didn’t write down detailed tasting notes but I remember it being very fruity and refreshing and it picked up a lot of white wine character from the barrel.  It almost just tasted like wine.  But a little sweeter, since most Oregon Gris is pretty dry. (4.5 stars)

Culmination Brewing

On Thursday evening the Oregon Brew Crew held a meeting at one of Portland’s newest breweries, Culmination Brewing. The OBC occasionally has “out” meetings at breweries who are gracious enough to host us and let us trample all over the place”oooh”ing and “aaaah”ing at all the shiny metal tanks.  So many of the places here in Portland are a story of “homebrewer turned pro” that it’s great for the pro guys to turn around and look down the ladder at the next group potentially heading up and give them a hand.

Culmination is so new, they actually haven’t started brewing on site yet.  The brewery/taproom has been open for a few months and they have two beers on tap that they brewed in collaboration with other breweries here in town. Owner/Head Brewer Tomas Sluiter who spoke to the crowd at the meeting says they hope to start the first in house batch sometime next week.  The first batch through the system will be their “4 and 20 Imperial Black IPA” which they brewed first as a collaboration with Lucky Labrador.  They actually ran out of this beer the night we were there. So you were indeed lucky if you got to try it before the keg blew. They also have a couple of guest taps that they are pouring right now, and for a place that only had 5 things on tap, they are ready to expand in a big way since they had to have had at least 25 taps behind the bar including at least three on nitro.

Tomas described the system to us, which is really interesting, as he put it a seriously custom “Frankenstein” system.  It’s a 5 barrel system with 5 vessels, so he has the flexibility to create 5 different smaller batches, one giant 25 barrel batch or anything in between.  Not only does he want variety but he wants the beer to be fresh.  He mentioned previous work on a 15 barrel, 2 vessel system that limited creativity and create a huge stock of beer that sat for a long time. He went out of his way to avoid that situation at his new venture.

The other beer of theirs on tap is the one I got to try, which is the Reynard Belgium Style IPA.  I had a few sips of the 4 and 20, but not enough to do a serious evaluation, but I made some notes on the Reynard. This was a collaboration with Brannon Brewpub.

Reynard Belgium Style IPA – Culmination Brewing: 6.0% ABV

Nice golden color with a white head.  Some floral hop aroma along with a very slight Belgian funk.  The flavor hits with nice floral hops and only a tiny bit of the traditional Belgian flavor.  The finish is clean and crisp and the bitterness lingers, but it’s not extremely strong.  The IBUs aren’t listed but it’s not a huge hop bomb.

So, since it is a blend of styles it’s hard to judge it by styles, but it comes up just a little short on both fronts.  It’s an enjoyable and supremely drinkable beer, but it doesn’t quite have the pop of a normal NW IPA, and on the other hand it doesn’t have enough of that earthy, spicy Belgian character that, personally, I really enjoy.  Interesting enough, not two styles I would imagine blended together.

Rating: 3.5 (of 5) stars

Culmination brewing is located in NE Portland, just off Sandy Blvd at 21st and Oregon Street.