Double Mountain, Devil's Cuvee Kriek
Hood River, OR
New Glarus, Wisconsin Belgian Red
New Glarus, WI
Lindemans, Oude Kriek Cuvée René
Everybody's, Barrel Aged Sour Cherry Saison
White Salmon, Washington
Trinity, Pappy Legba
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hof Ten Dormaal, Kriek
pFriem Oude Kriek
Hood River, OR
Mikkeller Hallo Ich Bin Berliner Weisse-Cherry
Denmark (by way of De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium)
Black Market, Cherry Sour
Russian River, Supplication
Santa Rosa, CA
Lost Abbey, Red Poppy
San Marcos, CA
Block 15, Kriek
Brooklyn, K is for Kriek
Ciders, Sodas, Etc.
Oskar Blues, B. Stiff & Sons Black Cherry
Reverend Nat's, Sacrilege
McMenamins, Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb
Blue Mountain, Cherry Cider
Tieton Cider Works, Cherry Cider
Two Towns, Cherried Away
3.8% ABV, 12-oz can
This is a cherry infused version of the Temecula, California brewery’s 1945 Berliner Weisse from their Tradecraft Series. It's snappy and tart and refreshing. What it isn't is complex; quick sour beers yield the tartness we crave now but rarely deliver the nuance and depth that beers soured over time in barrels (or stainless) can deliver with this beer being no exception. Still, the linear tartness with light yet pleasing fruit notes is unwavering from start to finish and the cherry addition makes for great late summer drinking. Plus, it’d go nicely with the chilled noodle salad I'm currently craving. (Photo credit: Since I lost mine somehow, this is from AnotherDreamyTraveller.com)
5.6% ABV, 375-ml
In late 2013, I started writing a story about Hood River's breweries for Draft Magazine. Not only are the IPAs that come out of that tiny, riverside town are legendary, but so are the wild ales made with the freshest of local cherries grown in the valley. Not that pFriem Family Brewery made one yet. So that was when I asked Annie Pfriem, aka BrewMama, when they’d come out with a kriek as I’d heard her husband, brewmaster Josh Pfriem, discuss. Her response: “We are still building our barrel aging program and hoping to start releasing these beers in late 2014 (when) we will start brewing Lambic and hope to have our fruit Lambic beers release in late 2015...TRUST ME this BrewMama wishes there was already pFriem Kriek to drink.”
Well, cut to 2016 and her wish has come true. As has mine. Despite notifying me a year ago—when I first asked BrewMama if there would or could be a kriek available for the fest—that head brewer Gavin Lord had been tasked with sourcing cherries but it was a bad year for the harvest so her Magic Eight Ball responded with a mix of “Reply hazy try again/Don't count on it.” Fortuitously, after some time and reshaking, it turned into a “Decidedly so” because this amazing oude kriek—that is to say, a spontaneously fermented lambic-style ale aged on whole cherries with no additional sugars added—hits a grand slam its first time at bat.
The nose is a bit funky with fruity pinot and cherry aromas, too. It’s both decadently juicy but splendidly dry. It doesn’t go overboard on the lactic sour notes or the barny Brett notes; the acidity level is pleasant, not puckering. But the real maestro is nature, which took two pounds of Sweetheart and Regina cherries per gallon, hung tight for 10 months in oak barrels, and then dropped the mic. At 5.6% ABV, it’s also all too easy to polish off the entire split without splitting it with someone, as I just did.
7% ABV, 375-ml or 6L if you're lucky
Russian River Brewing's founder/brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo doesn’t call this a kriek, but he doesn’t back away from the comparison saying, “The cherry character is certainly at the forefront.” The brewery is in the middle of grape country, not cherries, so Cilurzo uses dried cherries from Michigan. That’s also the key to having Supplication available year-round, if not always in 375-ml bottles then at least on draft at the pub (or the six-liter bottles he and his wife Nathalie poured at the Firestone Walker Invitational recently). The brown, wild ale base is soured with the holy trinity of critters: Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococccus. After receiving the sour cherries, the whole shebang ages in local Pinot Noir barrels for a year so the oak balances out the sour and the funk. More in line with a vinegary Flanders Brown than a Kriek lambic, Cilurzo says, “I thought it up and created the recipe. For the most part we’ve made no changes to the recipe from that first try. We hit exactly what I wanted to see in the first beer. It was probably the first time I envisioned a beer before making it and nailed it on the first try.
6.5% ABV, 330-ml
There are Belgian farmhouse style breweries and there’s this brewery based on a farm in Belgium. So it stands to reason that Hof Ten Dormaal (which tragically burned to the ground in early 2015 but is back in action) tackle one of the most traditional styles of Belgian beer: spontaneously fermented kriek. Everything about this beer is deep. The redish-purple hue. The barny, Brett-laden funky aroma. The sour cherries that seemingly blend with raspberries, blackberries, and perhaps some juicy, ripe currants. It’s an explosion of fruit with a deeply acidic bite. It’s pleasingly dry and super sour but not approaching Hanssens-level of shockingly sour. We didn’t approach importer 12% for this for the inaugural fest, but it’s now on our radar for next year even though it might be too much for a hot day. Then again, it knows how to stand out in a crowd. (Image below from the awesome Barcelona beer bar BierCAB because we couldn't get our admittedly worse shot to load.)
Oskar Blues Brewing, B. Stiff & Sons Black Cherry
0% ABV, 12-oz can.
Despite hailing from the Oskar Blues (now with breweries in Colorado, North Carolina, and Texas), this is actually part of their B. Stiff & Sons line of “old fashioned” soda pops. I’ve long been surprised that not more breweries are firing shots at Big Soda like they did with Big Beer. Consider how much more delectable Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils is than Budweiser. Shouldn’t this be the craft soda equivalent of Cherry Coke? But this is a candy-forward cherry soda. For comparison, Cherry Coke has 42 grams of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup and this has 41 grams of sugar derived from cane sugar. Certainly chalk one up for B. Stiff. Yet while it’s tasty, it’s quite sweet with no complexity or depth like the adult oriented craft soda offerings. Moreover, whereas Cherry Coke features “natural flavors” among its ingredients whatever that means, Oskar Blues uses “artificial flavors.” I wish they’d approached their soda like like they do their beers.
Pappy Legba (Cerise Saison Regal)
13% ABV, 375 ml.
This beer is not pouring at Kriekfest but that doesn’t stop me from reviewing all the cherry beers I can get my hands on. Trinity in Colorado Springs is a super solid saison-smith. Evidently their strength is in the lighter side of the sandbox—both in terms of flavor and alcohol content (TPS Report is a great example at just under 5% ABV yet no shortage of yeast-driven funk or refreshment). Pappy Legba clobbers in at 13% and packs a fusel wallop. Moreover: where are those sour pie cherries they allegedly added? This is bottle conditioned and poured mostly foam. Once it began to dissipate, the beer was amber—no hint of red or even pink—and could be said to possess a tinge of unripe strawberry but certainly not cherry. The label copy even suggests this belongs in the kriek camp, but even though this bottle was purchased several months ago at Belmont Station here in Portland, krieks and beers at higher gravity tend to finish up nicely. If I ever get around to a Kumquatfest, I'd be happy to bring in their 6.4% "Menacing Kumquat." As mentioned, this one’s not going to be featured at the fest.
Barrel Aged Sour Cherry Saison (the style's in the name)
As part of Everybody's Brewing's Local Harvest series, this plum colored beer pours with a huge Pinot Noir nose, courtesy of the barrel it spent three months aging in. The wine overrides the saison yeast and even the 125 pounds of local cherries (Everybody's is in White Salmon, WA in the Columbia River Gorge). Pilsner malt base lets other characteristics shine: there’s certainly a tart cherry profile with good acidity like biting into an almost-ripe cherry, but really there’s a lotta grapes, made all the mustier by the farmhouse yeast. And of course that funkiness. Nevertheless, this is a beer I'd recommend drinking ASAP (it was released a handful of months ago) instead of letting it ride in your cellar. Come July, this will really thrill the winos at the fest.
Oude Kriek Cuvée René (Kriek)
7% ABV, 750-ml bottle.
This spontaneously fermented lambic aged on whole cherries just started showing up in America thanks to importers Merchant du Vin, but Belgians have been enjoying it since 1961. Unlike the “regular” version of Lindemans Kriek (yikes, sweetened with sugar and stevia), this glorious Oude Kriek is tart and dry, not sweet or syrupy. The acetic nose with a whiff of wild plum lets you know you’re in for a sour treat but from the first sip, this is tart cherries to the hilt. It’s certainly no wonder this just earned a silver medal at the World Beer Cup in the Belgian-style Sour Ale category (and several other awards from global and Belgian competitions). We’re happy to have this available at the fest, but it’s limited—and such a great value at $12 per 750-ml bottle if you can find it—so queue up for your sample early.
Wisconsin Belgian Red (Wisconsin Cherry Ale)
4% ABV, 750-ml bottle.
While we made the futile effort to bring this beer in for Kriekfest, it is notoriously only distributed within its home state of Wisconsin. Yet it's arguably America’s most famous cherry beer. New Glarus Brewing's sour cherry ale is a rarity of another sort in that it's available year-round. This fire engine red elixir boasts more than one pound of Door County Montmorency cherries per 750-ml bottle. It is fairly sweet, delectably tangy, and its rarity ensures that each sip tastes like a celebration. Speaking of being celebratory, it debuted in 1993 and has won seven Great American Beer Fest medals beginning in 1996. Better yet, it’s now spontaneously fermented in the brewery’s Wild Fruit Cave. Anyone heading to or through Wisconsin... please hit me up about trades.
Cherry beer reviews
Here is an ongoing collection of cherry beer reviews--be they classic Belgian Krieks or other ales (or lagers) featuring cherries for added flavor. Cherry-infused ciders, sodas, or other beverages have a home here, too. www.CherryBeers.com redirects here.