Tag Archives: cherry

#189 – Super des Fagnes Griottes

#189 - Super des Fagnes Griottes

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 4.8 %

Griotte is a French term which defines the genus of sour cherries known scientifically as Prunus cerasus. The crop is largely cultivated in Europe and southwestAsia, and is similar to the regular wild cherry, but for the acidity of the fruit that is borne. The trees tend to be much smaller, and the fruit a lot darker.

One of the most well known sour cherries is that of the Morello. These are distinguished by their dark skin, flesh and juice, and are extremely useful for making pies and jams, and of course beer. The griotte on its own isn’t really ideal for eating as it is quite bitter, but these are perfect for use in beer, in that the strong complex flavour is brought out as a result of melding with large amounts of sugar. The griotte is also a very hardy fruit, being exceptionally resistant to pests and diseases, and is therefore often able to survive the hardest conditions. Its fertility is also renowned amongst sweeter varieties of cherries, and farmers often have little problems keeping cherry production stable. Sour cherries are often labelled self-fertile, or self-pollenizing.

So it’s fairly easy to see why sour cherries have been used so much in Belgiumto make beer. Not only are they easy to grow and store, they give good colour to the brew, but also due to their flavour they are able to hide what might normally be a pretty average beer. I am pretty sure having drunk the Super des Fagnes Griottes, that this is particularly the case here. This was a fairly sour, but largely uninspiring fruit beer. I had previously drunk the average Super des Fagnes Blonde (#56), and the excellent Super des Fagnes Brune (#50), however the Griottes left something of a sour taste in my mouth.

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Filed under 5, Deer, Duck, Fagnes, Fruit Beer

#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.

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Filed under 5, Belle-Vue (InBev), 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.

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Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Van Honsebrouck

#102 – Echt Kriekenbier

#102 - Echt Kriekenbier

Size: 250 ml

ABV: 6.8 %

Echt Kriekenbier is a famous traditional Flemish cherry ale made by Verhaeghe, and is based on the brew Vichtenaar (#146). After being matured in oak casks for about eight months, in a similar style to the Rodenbach Grand Cru (#17), a batch of the Vichtenaar is not taken for sale, but is left to mature in the oak casks and filled with very local and very sour cherries. A selection of different aged casks of this fine concoction are then blended together (usually between one and three years) and then bottled for our delectation.

It is worth making the point here and now that this is a kriekenbier and not a kriek! There is a subtle difference as all aficionados will tell you, in that one is not officially allowed to call a kriek a kriek unless it contains lambic beer. Kriekenbier refers to any other possible fusion – which I suppose could include steeping in sour ales, stout or even wheat beer. Like the Bacchus Frambozenbier (#38) the Echt Kriekenbier is mixed with an Oud Bruin. It is worth making the distinction as other sour ales exist which are known as red ales, such as the Duchesse de Bourgogne (#105), also from Verhaeghe.

The Echt Kriekenbier is an impressive brew, actually not unlike the Rodenbach Grand Cru, although there is slightly less of it in the 250 ml bottles. The Echt in the title refers to the adjective in the German and Dutch languages meaning ‘genuine’ or ‘authentic’. My mum will vouch for this through her screwed up face on having a sip of what I cheekily told her was a cherry beer. At least I didn’t have to waste any more, and it’s a good sign as if my mum likes a beer you know its probably bad !

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Filed under 7, Brewers, Lion, Sour Ale, Verhaeghe

#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.

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Filed under 7, Cantillon, Lambic - Fruit

#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).

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Filed under 8, Lambic - Fruit, Lindemans

#38 – Bacchus Frambozenbier

#38 - Bacchus Frambozenbier

Size: 375 ml

ABV: 5%

Raspberry beer – it might sound odd but historically raspberries have often been added to beers after initial fermentation. Lambic beers in particular, where the term ‘steeping’ is used to describe the process of adding bucketfuls of fruit into beer and then leaving to further ferment for about six months. Bacchus Frambozenbier isn’t really a traditional lambic fruit beer, but the lauded quality of these has led to many different brewery experiments over the years. Bacchus (#42) is actually a sour brown ale, and the raspberries have been added for a secondary fermentation. It tends to work pretty well, and Van Honsebrouck and Verhaeghe are good exponents of the fruity sour ale style, with the Echt Kriekenbier (#102) being a perfect example.

The popularity of raspberries in the history of fruit beer is that they are a particularly pungent and aromatic fruit, and it doesn’t take too many to make an impact on the flavour, even in a sour ale. Raspberries and cherries have for this reason been largely used, however in recent times a number of other different fruits such as peaches, apricots and blueberries have been utilised. Largely they aren’t as pungent, but sadly they are much cheaper. As we have already mentioned in other posts (notably #24) syrups and cordials have largely replaced the real fruit to the detriment of the fruit beer, but real fruit lambics and sour ales are a treasure, and often only found in Belgium of course.

I wasnt expecting great things but was happily surprised by this. Where Fruli is bright and radioactive, the Bacchus Frambozenbier was dark and brooding in colour. The smell and flavour was clearly aromatic raspberries but it really didnt overpower me. I could still taste beer in the aftertaste and although it faded and tasted a bit artificial in the end, I really did enjoy drinking this. The stock of fruit beers has risen; albeit a sour ale. Arise the raspberry!

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Filed under 7, Sour Ale, Van Honsebrouck