What is kriek?
The word is Flemish for cherry. Kriek beers are a traditional style since at least the 17th century. They are spontaneously fermented lambic ales brewed in Belgium aged with local cherries (pits and all). Today, beers soured with wild yeasts and bacteria are created the world over. Cherry-growing regions are natural birthplaces for such beers (and ciders). Oregon's Hood River Valley treats those passing along the Fruit Loop to pastoral views of cherry trees protected against inclement weather by Mt. Hood. Combined with the fecund Willamette Valley, Oregon cherry farmers harvest over 13,000 acres of cherries and although seasonal harvests vary greatly, the overall value of production within the state has a five-year average of over $55,000,000.
What is kriekfest?
An all-cherry beer and cider festival was initially conceived in 2013 over a beer at Solera Brewery. Awe-struck by the view of Mt. Hood’s glaciers looming over neighboring orchards, fest creator Brian Yaeger suggested to brewmaster Jason Kahler that they their own festival of krieks. In 2015, co-owner John Hitt tackled the festival’s logistics. Attendees are encouraged to camp in the valley for the weekend (see the Lodging page) and explore the Columbia River Gorge's breweries, cideries, and farms.
Parkdale, Oregon is the most fitting setting for such a festival. In the early summer months, cherry trees blossom in red and sometimes yellow and white. Naturally, Oregon's brewers use the freshest ones to brew otherworldly cherry beers. A few other superlative Kriek makers from around the US and the world are also participating.
The word solera, incidentally, is a traditional method, typically among sherry producers, that entails blending sequentially aged beers into one dynamic, concoction. It is similar to the blending process used in making lambics. And ss Belgian Lambic-style beers and other wild ales continue to grow in popularity, a common refrain is that nearly everyone's favorite style is the tart, funky Kriek. This is a fest for them. A celebration for everyone.