Category Archives: Lambic – Fruit

#172 – Timmermans Kriek

#172 - Timmermans Kriek

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 4 %

It has been a while since I last supped on a Timmermans beer (#12), which gave me the opportunity to talk about their gueuze. It seems only right now to introduce a little bit of the history.

Timmermans is naturally a family business, and first started brewing gueuze in a disused cow shed in Itterbeek, a suburb of Brussels, way back in 1781.The first brewer was a gentleman by the name of Henry Vanheyleweghen who eventually handed over and leased the buildings to Jacobus Walraevens. By 1832 the smallholding had amassed also a farm, an orchard, café and malt house, and also a name – the Brasserie de la Taupe (the Mole brewery).

Eventually the son of Jacobus, Paul Walraevens inherited the business and continued to provide a multitude of excellent local products. It was only in 1911 under new ownership that all subsidiary activities were finally stopped, with the complete focus being the pub and brewery. The youngest Walraevens daughter had married brewer Frans Timmermans, although the name didn’t finally stick until 1960 when Paul van Cutsem, the son-in-law of Frans, took over proceedings and changed the name to Mol Timmermans.

The Timmermans name still lives on even though the brewery is now under the stewardship of the Anthony Martin group. They are famous for their lambic gueuze and faro, and for the colourful range of fruit lambic beers of which the Timmermans Kriek is one of the most popular – I certainly did enjoy this one. There are almost certainly more authentic and traditional lambic krieks out there, but this one certainly hit the spot for refreshment and sweetness. I had the larger 330 ml bottle which meant it wasn’t over before it had begun. The flavour lasted to the very end, and bearing in mind they sell this in my local supermarket, I may well be going back on a hot summers day to try this one again.

Leave a comment

Filed under 7, Lambic - Fruit, Timmermans

#157 – Lindemans Tea Beer

#157 - Lindemans Tea Beer

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 3.5 %

The rather adventurous Lindemans Tea Beer was first brewed in 1995; a lambic beer brewed with barley, malt, wheat and hops, albeit fermented and matured with tea leaves. The concept of a tea beer completely fascinated me when I spotted this beer on the shelf of an expensive beer shop in Bruges, even more so with its Japanese label – I had to have one.

The whole tea beer thing rather got me thinking, and being English it struck me that beer and tea are about the most popular drinks over here. Everybody knows the fascination of the English with tea, and we aren’t too shy when it comes to beer either. I wondered which one might be ultimately better for you. It might seem an obvious answer especially if not drunk in moderation, but then I discovered an article from an 1822 book called Cottage Economy. The author William Cobbett takes some time to spell out the virtues of both. Tea drinkers, and women – look away now!

The context behind the article was that this was a time when tea was largely taking the place of beer in society, taxes on beer were rising steeply and Mr William Cobbett was rather less than pleased about it. He starts his tirade by arguing that tea weakens the human body for labour as opposed to strengthening it as beer does. He likens the rush from tea to a quick fix you might get through opiates (laudanum), and that tea will inevitably enfeeble a human being. He goes as far as suggesting tea is ‘a destroyer of health, an enfeebler of the frame, an engenderer of effeminacy and laziness, a debaucher of youth, and a maker of misery for old age’. This is based around the argument that in fifteen bushels of malt there are 570 pounds of pure nutrition, as opposed to just 84 pounds in tea. In fact he goes as far as saying that a lean pig will be able to provide all the bacon you need if you feed him beer, but die of hunger on tea.

He doesn’t stop at paralytic pigs. He also makes a fairly decent argument that the contemporary woman (because of course female emasculation is yet just a twinkle in the eye) spends the best part of her day brewing tea where she could be helping in the fields. Beer of course whence made just needs pouring. Womankind gets a further battering in his summing up, whereby he suggests that the ‘gossip of the tea-table is no bad preparatory school for the brothel’, and that ‘the everlasting dawdling about, with the slops of the tea-tackle, gives them a relish for nothing that requires strength and activity’.

So there you have it. The next time you hear somebody tell you beer is bad for you, point them in the direction of William Cobbett, although I can wholly verify that tea beer is bad for you – well at least it must be for your teeth. It was painfully sweet, and to be honest I couldn’t tell the difference between this and a can of cold iced tea. To be fair it would have been a refreshing drink in the warm sunshine, but as a beer to drink after a long day at work it was simply an aberration.

2 Comments

Filed under 5, Lambic - Fruit, Lindemans

#152 – Belle-Vue Kriek Extra

#152 - Belle-Vue Kriek Extra

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.3 %

There are a whole host of fruit beers on the market that label themselves rather gratuitously. One that had already begun to confuse me was the way that Belle-Vue had two different types of Kriek. One was normal or classique Kriek, weighing in at 5.2%, and then there is the Belle-Vue Kriek Extra at 4.3%. So, if you aren’t getting extra alcohol in your Kriek Extra, what exactly are you getting?

The official website explains that the Extra, is the sweeter, more fruity variety of the traditional Kriek. It is made only with young lambics, with the addition of extra cherries, thus offering extra refreshment and extra sweetness. By that rationale then, one can only assume by adding extra cherries there is less room for alcohol. I was very much enjoying the irony of this (much more than the beer in fact), in that particularly in the US and Great Britain at the moment it seems brewers are offering more choice of beers, in an attempt to curb the latent binge-drinking culture. Stella Artois (#116) now offers a 4% beer, Becks offer the Fier; not to mention all the American Light beers. Only Belgium could offer a reduced alcohol beer and call it Extra!

I would not have normally gone hunting out the Kriek Extra, but I am on a 1000 beer odyssey after all, and as I saw this lying in the fridge at the guesthouse I was staying in, so decided to slump on the bed and refresh myself after the long haul around Bruges. It was I suppose vaguely refreshing, and at least did the job, in that it didn’t send me off to sleep – I was keen to keep myself fresh for the evenings drinking ahead. It poured a crimson red, and my overall analysis would be that this tasted like cherry cordial with the addition of some sparkling water and extra sugar. Considering the Belle-Vue range are made with lambic, I must admit to being fairly disappointed, although many rumours abound with regards to the actual processes that Belle-Vue use nowadays. Perhaps I can save that for the tougher non-Extra.

Leave a comment

Filed under 5, Belle-Vue (InBev), Lambic - Fruit

#147 – Boon Kriek

#147 - Boon Kriek

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4 %

It seems a long time ago now that I was first drinking the Boon Oude Gueuze (#89) where we first met Frank Boon. I said then I would continue his story, and it’s definitely a story worth telling.

We left the tale just after Frank had begun to invest in the De Vits Gueuze blenders in Lembeek. It wasn’t that he had any particular desire to do so, only that he couldn’t bear to see the place go out of business, and no longer produce his favourite gueuze. It took a while but he managed to identify just why the sale of lambic was declining at a shocking rate – lambic was seen traditionally as a peasants’ beer, thus it often used the cheapest ingredients. The best selling lambics were the best quality ones.

Things were still not working out though as planned, as between 1985 and 1989 production had dropped from 1240 hl to only 450 hl. De Vits decided to pull out entirely, and so Boon took the complete reins. He put together an agreement with Palm breweries who supported the production of gueuze as a cultural project, while he set up the brewhouse. Within three years all the remaining blenders in Brussels had become clients, the quality had risen steeply, and production shot back up – so much so that by 2007, Boon was churning out over 10,000 hl, twenty times the amount of just eight years ago.

Frank Boon continues to produce excellent lambic beers, and Boon Kriek is a fantastic example of a 100% pure lambic steeped in rich cherries – the 2006 bottle being definitely the best example I have tried yet. It was dank and sour, and yet fruity and pungent. You really need to sniff and breathe deeply as you take each sip. The colour is rich and rewarding, and you’d know it’s full of hearty goodness even if you hadn’t read about it before. Nice one Frank !

Leave a comment

Filed under 8, Boon, Lambic - Fruit

#130 – Oud Beersel Oude Kriek

#130 - Oud Beersel Oude Kriek

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 6.5 %

The striking feature of the Oud Beersel Oude Kriek label is the elegantly designed illustration of a castle. This Kasteel van Beersel is the most striking tourist attraction of the town of Beersel from which the beer/brewery derives its name. It was built approximately 700 years ago by Jan II, the Duke of Brabant as part of the defensive base for Brussels – the capital sits just 12km to the north east of Beersel.

The castle has been a key part of the towns history, being damaged in the War of Succession of Brabant (1356-57), during the rebellion against Maximilian in 1489, and then finally being left to the ravages of desolation during the 18th Century when it was left unoccupied. A cotton factory was initiated in the building in 1818, and eventually passed through a series of local families until it was donated to the League of Friends of Beersel in 1928, whereupon it was beautifully restored to its present glory.

Beersel is also the home to two famous breweries. Drie Fonteinen, and of course Oud Beersel. Both are renowned for the quality of their lambic beer in a region which is famous for it. Once you have climbed the castle and taken in the stunning views across town, you can wander off to any bar and have the pick of some of Belgiums finest beers. Be sure to make sure the service includes ‘boterham met plattekaas en radijzen’ (bread with white cheese and radishes) and ‘mandjeskaas’ (white cheese in small baskets) – both are tasty traditional snacks of Beersel and which accompany lambic beers perfectly apparently.

This was to be my third lambic of the night in the Rake. It was extremely sour still, but after the abomination of the Cassisframbozenlambic (#129) I wasn’t complaining. It was more subtle than other Krieks I had tried, which I put down to being from a professional brewer/blender. There was definitely a cherryness deep in the brew but you had to work hard to get there while the acidic dryness rebounded all round your lips. It was perfect to sip while pulling up a bar stool and catching up on old chat, and peering into the well stocked fridges to see what to choose next.

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Lambic - Fruit, Oud Beersel

#129 – Cassisframbozenlambic

#129 - Hanssens Cassisframbozenlambic

Size: Cask

ABV: 4 %

There was a damn fine reason to be in The Rake pub this evening, which was the highly vaunted and much anticipated Lambic beer festival. I had started the evening on a high with the bottled Oudbeitje (#128) strawberry lambic, and my confidence had risen. I thought it was about time I tried the real stuff on cask. Being still somewhat of a novice on all things lambic I decided that the Hanssens Cassisframbozenlambic which was brooding in their cellar would be the perfect choice. ‘How can you possibly go wrong with a fruit beer?’ were the fateful words uttered by my other half.

It was with these words ringing in my ears, that I strode purposefully back to the bar and ordered two halves of the Cassisframbozenlambic. Priced at £9.90 a pint, it certainly failed to qualify as a bargain, but then how often do you get a lambic beer festival in London? After a short wait, two glasses of a rich red torpid liquid were placed in front of me, while a gentleman to my left nodded manfully with approval. It would be probably the only time in my life where the purchase of a fruit beer would be so professionally acknowledged. Having sorted out the Vedett drinkers in our round, we both dived into the extremely pungent brew.

This was to be no ordinary fruit beer. Never since accidentally drinking rancid milk as a child I had been so offended by a drink. While my face told the story, and I tried gainfully to get through it, Tash had surrendered the most expensive drink I had ever bought her to the bar, demanding something, anything to wash away the flavour. I returned to the couple of locals who had been so impressed with my purchase, who reassured me that the ¾ of a glass I had managed to drink was quite an achievement and that this stuff is normally only used for blending, not for drinking.

Incredibly though when I searched the ratebeer website to check others opinions, I found people rating this monstrosity at high 3s and in some cases over 4. I will leave you with two separate reviews from the evening, both which perfectly highlight how either people are able to develop their palates over time, or that some people simply think its cool to like having their throat burnt at £9.90 a time.

The Good – “Shockingly sour to a point of acidity, suggesting more raspberries and rhubarb rather than blackcurrants. Maybe this wrecked my palette but all the other lambics that I sampled subsequently, tasted rather tame! I kept returning to this little beauty and ended up finishing the evening off with a pint of it. It’s a very difficult drink to rate: certainly not a great deal of finesse but heaps of attitude. I would be intrigued to experiment with this beer in the kitchen, perhaps even using it to make a sorbet. My rating reflects how keen I would be to obtain it again rather than the beer’s technical merits. Many thanks to Tom for assembling and hosting what was probably the finest exhibition of lambic beers ever held outside Belgium

The Bad – “God that is horrible, stale and one of the worst beers I’ve tasted. Total doubling over of the body vile. Weird aftertaste. Clearly one of the most acidic beers I’ve drunk. Like drinking mould. Aroma is a 6 but every thing else is awful

6 Comments

Filed under 1, Hanssens, Lambic - Fruit

#128 – Oudbeitje

#128 - Oudbeitje

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 6 %

Oudbeitje gets your mouth into a twist in more ways than one. At the bar at The Rake pub in South London I attempted to pronounce it, but after the third miserable failure coupled with exponentiating quizzical looks from the barmaid, I opted to point and mouth ‘strawberry beer’ over the din of the evening punters. I needn’t have been so ashamed as there is no Fruli (#24) to be found in this cracking little pub, and I was eventually served with a beer I had wanted to try for ages.

Oudbeitje can be rather easily translated from the Flemish for ‘old berry’ – in this case old, rich pungent strawberries, which are added to lambic beer during the summer months. During the winter the whole lot sits and matures, waiting for the bottling which will take place in Spring. Unlike a Gueuze or a Kriek, there is no need for blending of old and young lambics, as the typical characteristics of the strawberries cause the lambic to react as Gueuze would. This has an impact on the secondary fermentation which is far less spirited and therefore contains far less carbon dioxide. It is this reason that the Oudbeitje is so flat.

There were a number of surprises about this beer. Firstly the price – Although I know good lambic beer does not come cheap even in Belgium, I was a little unprepared for the savage looks I was getting from the friend of a friend who had offered to buy the first round. I just nodded and pretended to look like the beer geek I was starting to become. The second surprise was the colour. Anybody who has drunk Fruli will know that it almost certainly turns your stomach scarlet – the Oudbeitje however was a pale golden colour which was so innocuous it could almost have been a Gueuze. The taste though was as pongy as one might expect from real lambic, but it was imbued with the faint taste of bygone British summers in front of the tennis. Despite the tart flatness, and the fact that the next round cost me even more, I will still remember this beer fondly.

1 Comment

Filed under 7, Hanssens, Lambic - Fruit

#126 – St. Louis Premium Kriek

#126 - St. Louis Premium Kriek

Size: 330 ml

ABV: 3.5 %

Saint Louis has done rather well for himself in the naming stakes. A state in Mexico, a city in the US, a famous baseball team, an Oscar winning movie, and of course the cherry on the cake being associated with a range of low alcohol fruit beers from Van Honsebrouck 😉 So who is the gentleman with the crown who graces some of the labels, and what is his association with Belgian beer?

The Saint in question was actually also King Louis IX of France, who ruled between 1226 and 1270. It is unusual for kings to end up as Saints, and indeed he was the only French king ever to be canonised. Considering this canonisation took place only 29 years after his death, it is clear he must have done some seriously good shit in his life to warrant this.

Many considered Louis to be the model of the ideal Christian monarch, a man who spent his early life bravely fighting in the Crusades, and yet always having enough time for the poor and the needy. He was a huge patron of art and architecture, and yet also is remembered as the lynchpin ruler during which the Kingdom of France was at its political and economic zenith. The whole of Europe looked to this fair man as an arbiter at times of struggle, which was some compliment, although the fact he commanded the largest army in Europe at the time may have been a consideration.

Nevertheless, it’s his association with beer which interests us most. During his reign, Louis passed a succession of laws to regulate the brewing and selling of beer, and in 1250 incorporated the first French brewers’ guild. His influence in this sphere at a time when the production of beer was extremely inconsistent cannot be underestimated. Naturally, the good people of Belgium with their love of fine beer have also taken Louis to their hearts, and his name lives on within what I would recognise as pretty decent fruit beers.

The Kriek is made from traditional Gueuze lambic, to which about 25% of fresh black cherry juice and natural sugar is added. The result is a deeply fruity dark red beer, with a pink frothy head which tastes absolutely splendid. It was a mission trying to stop the wife taking sneaky sips, which I am normally very pleased to offer when working my way through your average fruit beer. I realise this review will upset the purists who expect to see authentic steeping of fruit, but if it’s a deliciously sweet refreshing summer cooler you are after, then look no further than the St. Louis Premium Kriek.

Leave a comment

Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Van Honsebrouck

#109 – Pecheresse

#109 - Pecheresse

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 2.5 %

Some people after a severe night on the tiles (of the Scrabble variety of course) take a glass of water to bed with them to cure the inevitable hangover. Belgian beer connoisseurs of course, of which I was now surely worthy of calling myself, pick up their nearest fruit beer and down that with a paracetamol or two. The Pecheresse by Lindemans weighed in at a meagre 2.5%, which would be a perfect nightcap.

Pecheresse is a beer created by adding peach juice to the typical Lindemans lambic base. It’s a formula which has tended to work well for Lindemans over the years. The name is an interesting take on the the French term ‘peche’ for peach, and ‘pecheresse’ which translates as a female sinner; who we see draped exotically across the typically attractive Lindemans label. The message is clearly one of seduction, although at this late stage of the night it was certainly more about sedation for me.

The idea for Pecheresse may well have come from the medieval French play of the same name, which tells the story of a young girl who after enduring watching her parents die under the weight of extreme poverty, becomes tempted by Satan to prostitute herself to a life of vice in order to give her mother and father a better life. Good of course prevails over evil, just as it does in the Joan Crawford and Clark Gable film of the same name (The Laughing Sinners) which was released in 1931, where the title character finally chooses strength of moral character over that of fleeting erotic desire.

A label depicting a semi-naked woman would normally have to work a lot harder to tempt me to drink this kind of rubbish, but it was late, I was away from the wife, and I’d had about the equivalent of ten pints. I have since confessed my sins,  and to be fair I quite enjoyed it at the time. Fortunately when I woke in the morning with a pulsing head, and a mouth like a bear’s armpit, the hazy recollection of a brief dalliance with this harlot of the night had been consigned to the recycling. Nothing more needs to be said.

Leave a comment

Filed under 7, Lambic - Fruit, Lindemans

#95 – Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic

#95 - Cantillon Kriek

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 5 %

Cantillon has five entries in the ‘Top 100 Belgian beers to try before you die’ – it would have been more but the authors felt it might skew the book somewhat. As we have previously ascertained there were hundreds of lambic brewers and blenders in Brussels in yesteryear (#89), but now there is just this one.

The Cantillon Kriek is renowned for its quality, and having only drunk the Lindemans Kriek (#78) on this journey so far, I thought I would use this opportunity to share how Cantillon make theirs as an exemplar to all thriving replicants.

The lambic beer is already sitting waiting when the cherries arrive by lorry on what is hopefully a warm summers afternoon. Cantillon usually buy theirs from auction at St. Truiden, resulting in thousands of kilos of the Kellery variety. About 150kg of this rich fruit is put in each 650 litre capacity barrel, and then the appropriate one and half year old lambics are chosen to add to the barrels. It is essential that the lambics chosen are healthy as it would spoil the beer at this stage. The unhealthy ones will have to wait, but Cantillon are experts at knowing which lambics to use, and curing those that aren’t.

Once the barrels are filled, the hole is sealed with a sheet of paper to avoid impurities reaching the mix, but still leaving the barrels open to the natural yeasts. Within about five days the fermentation fires up, whereby the sugars from the lambic and cherries start to activate the yeasts that are sitting in the wood and in the skin of the cherries. It is here that the amazing rich red colours begin to form. As the brewers here tend to start at the same time each summer, they are prepared for the fermentation to wind down around the 10th August, whereupon the barrels are finally closed, and the acids in the lambic begin to leach all the flavour and remaining colour from the cherries. Spiders are a key part of the result at this stage as they prove to be better than any insecticide, protecting the environment from infection and encouraging the perfect natural equilibrium.

It doesn’t end here as the Kriek then gets a secondary fermentation in the bottle from the beginning of October. This is either done by mixing young lambics with the kriek, or by refilling the original barrel with lambic to mix with the left over pulp. All that remains then is to let the beer sit for about three to five months where it will saturate, and then it is ready for the discerning drinker. It can spoil if left too long and therefore drinkers are advised to imbibe within a year of bottling, although of course that is a matter of personal taste.

Speaking of which, I am probably still coming to terms with the whole lambic taste. I was expecting the rich sanguine flavours of the cherries to engulf me as the Lindemans had, but the overriding experience was still one of sourness and mustiness. Once you open the cork, and you get past the strong cidery nose, you just don’t expect something so flat. I enjoyed sipping it and rolling it around my oralities but yet again I am not sure whether it’s truly for me. I will keep working on it as there are plenty more to come.

5 Comments

Filed under 7, Cantillon, Lambic - Fruit

#84 – Lindemans Framboise

#84 - Lindemans Framboise

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 2.5 %

Lindemans have always been a well known lambic brewer following their decision to export to the United States in 1979 – the first Lambic producer to do so.  The US remains a large part of their market, although in 2007 they began to export to Asia, in particular large amounts to China, and now have added Russia to their fanbase. Lindemans have remained an interesting brewery in that they have stayed loyal to the lambic concept, but yet have adapted well to the modern market in creating tasty and attractive beers for different markets.

It is a far cry though from 1809, when the Lindemans family owned a small farm in Vlezenbeek on the outskirts of Brussels. They found during the winter months that there was less farming to do, and thus more time to make the lambic beer they were dabbling with, and could easily make with the left over wheat and barley that grew on their land. The lambic eventually became so popular, that in 1930 all farming ceased at Vlezenbeek, and all attention turned to brewing a Kriek (#78) and a Gueuze. Faro (#59) followed in 1978, followed by a succession of Fruit lambics in the early eighties, which of course included the highly popular Lindemans Framboise. These are particularly low strength beers, just 2.5% for the Framboise, and yet they remain extremely tasty and certainly do not taste that weak.

That said, I was disappointed with this Framboise. Although it is made with lambic beer, I have to hold my hands up and say I preferred the Bacchus Frambozenbier (#38) which is made with syrups mixed with sour brown ale. I did enjoy the Kriek much more and would chose this one from the plentiful supplies in your typical UK supermarket. The end result was certainly something that felt more potent than 2.5% but it was overpoweringly rich and sweet and I was surprised my teeth were still intact come the end. Sorry, Lindemans but I blow a raspberry in your direction on this one !

Leave a comment

Filed under 6, Lambic - Fruit, Lindemans

#78 – Lindemans Kriek

#78 - Lindemans Kriek

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 3.5 %

It is remarkable to think that it has taken 78 beverages of the Belgian variety to finally cross paths with a Kriek. I am not a massive fan of cherries, especially the darker kind that are traditionally used in beers, but it is almost impossible to drink a decent Kriek and not enjoy it. Lindemans is hardly the pinnacle of Lambic, but this Kriek is a seriously tasty little number.

Kriek is a recognised style of Belgian Beer, which is historically and traditionally created by fermenting authentic lambic beer with sour cherries. The addition of the cherries tends to kick-start a brand new fermentation in the oak barrels over a period of usually six to twelve months, by which time the residue is filtered and bottled for the delectation of the customer. This is the hardcore purist Kriek methodology, but it can be manufactured slightly to ensure similar results. As an example, Lindemans recognise the limited availability of the “schaerbeekse” cherries which traditionally comprise the Kriek, and therefore have developed a methodology whereby they add pure cherry juice to the lambic blends of different ages. I will certainly come across more pure Kriek lambics on this journey whereby either real cherries will be steeped in the vat, or even the rare “schaerbeekse”, however the resultant Lindemans was good enough for me.

The good news for those in the UK, is that this beer is readily available in most supermarkets at a reasonable price. Just make sure if you take one to a picnic that you have a corkscrew, as this is not something you would normally need to open a beer. Once you finally prize out the cork, you are faced with the startling cherry vapour and then the wonderful smells on pouring. The deep red colour was eerily sanguine, and although sweet on the tongue, was equally sour enough to remind us of the spontaneous fermentation. I have to say this is a fruit beer that will satisfy more the everyday drinker than the connoisseur, but surely even they wouldn’t turn this down on a warm summers day. It’s even perfectly designed to be a drink for a designated driver at 3.5%, assuming of course they know when to stop!

(Post-Script) – the first real opportunity to taste a pure kriek lambic came with the Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic (#95).

2 Comments

Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Lindemans