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.