I love a good beer, especially the ones that are made in Belgium. A few years ago, I was introduced to lambics, which is a type of Belgian beer made through through spontaneous fermentation of yeast. It’s exposed to wild yeast and bacteria, which gives it a very distinctive sour taste. Although lambics don’t have to be made with fruits, like raspberries, cherries, and peaches, a lot of the ones I like best are. Perhaps my favorite lambic type beer is kriek, which is beer made by fermenting lambic with sour Morello cherries.
The first time I enjoyed a kriek beer was at the Officer’s Club at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia. But I got more acquainted with this very refreshing style of beer when my husband and I lived in Europe and took a trip to Belgium. It was there that I really got to know even more styles of Belgian beer, especially kriek. The interesting thing about kriek and many of the other fruit based lambics is that they really don’t taste at all like a typical beer. In fact, my friend Tieng, bartender at the Fort Belvoir Officer’s Club, gushed to me that she didn’t like beer, but she loved kriek. It tastes like sour cherry soda, without the cloying stickiness of sugar.
I got a hankering for a kriek yesterday when an online acquaintance asked for suggestions of good “starter” beers. She was new to drinking alcoholic beverages. Someone suggested Belgian beers, but I had to disagree, since Belgian beers tend to be very sophisticated and unusual. But then I remembered kriek and how it’s low in alcohol (4.0% ABV) and doesn’t have a bitter, hoppy, “beer” taste. I suggested it to her, then decided I wanted some for myself!
Although there are a number of Belgian breweries that make kriek in differing styles, the brand that seems most available in the United States is Lindeman’s, which makes a number of different Belgian lambic style beers. Indeed, at the liquor store where I found my 750 ml bottle of Lindeman’s Kriek, there were several different fruity flavors of lambic beers available, but all were made by the Lindeman’s Brewery, which is located in Vlezenbeek, Belgium.
According to Lindeman’s official Web site, their kriek is made by adding fresh black cherries to lambic beer that has been aged for six months in oak barrels. The beer continues to age in the oak barrels with the cherries for another eight to twelve months. Then, cherry juice is added and the beer is filtered and bottled.
Opening the bottle
One thing to know about Lindeman’s Kriek beer is that opening it is not as simple as grabbing your closest bottle opener and prying off the cap. Like many Belgian lambics, Lindeman’s Kriek beer is corked. Actually, it’s corked and capped, so you’ll need a bottle opener and a wine opener. I’m a little disappointed by this, since a lot of krieks are corked with a champagne cork and open the same way as bubbly does.
After I pried off the cap, I grabbed my wine tool and pulled out the cork, noticing a fine plume of carbonated gas escaping from the neck of the bottle. The edges of the red liquid inside the bottle immediately started to foam and I caught the pleasant aroma of sour cherries and almost no detectable trace of a malt aroma. If I didn’t know this was beer, I never would guess it was by the smell.
This beer pours out a rich ruby red, with a little frothy pink head. I served it in a small goblet at about 38 degrees (2 or 3 degrees Celsius).
Lindeman’s Kriek is not a traditional kriek because it is sweetened with cherry juice. Nevertheless, this beer is very refreshing. It’s not at all sugary; it tastes like cherry soda without the sugar. The cherries are just tart enough without being too sour. I find this kriek absolutely delicious and very clean on the palate, not cloying. There’s no beer aftertaste or bitterness at all.
One other nice thing about kriek is that it can be used in cooking. In fact, Lindeman’s official web site is currently featuring a seared duck recipe that calls for kriek and gingerbread.
Three years ago, one bottle of this beer sold for $10 at the Fort Belvoir Officer’s Club. Today at a liquor store, we paid $8.99 for a 750ml bottle of Kriek. Bear in mind, however, that that’s about the size of a typical bottle of wine. Split sized bottles are also available.
Where to find it
Where I live, Lindeman’s Kriek beer is most easily found at a liquor store. You may also find it at high end beverage stores that specialize in beers and wines.
Though I don’t drink kriek very often, I find Lindeman’s Kriek a very refreshing beer when I’m in the mood for something light, refreshing, and different. I suspect this beer would be most popular with women and people who don’t like the taste of beer. My only criticism is the cap. I wish this particular kriek had a champagne or even just a wine cork. The bottle cap is a bit tricky to remove properly.