The idea of a fruit beer may seem a bit too, well, fruity. But before you write it off, you should know it’s not some new style invented by a marketing guru to try and tempt non-beer drinkers away from their wine coolers. Blending fresh fruit with fermenting beer dates back 500 years, particularly in Belgium’s Lembeek village, in the region of Flanders. And the star fruit? Kriek, the Flemish word for “cherry.” There are two main cherry styles: lambic and Flanders Red Ale. Both are brewed using the spontaneous fermentation triggered by natural, native yeasts that impart their trademark hint of barnyard smell. Lambics are aged for at least two years in both cask and bottle, while Flanders red ales see a bit less time in the cellar. But, cherry beer is no longer a throwback to centuries past. North American brewers are adding cherries to their craft, whether it’s a kriek, or another beer style infused with the finest cherries. If you’re making a resolution to eat more fruit, here’s a better idea: drink cherry beers. It is perfect timing for those of us who have resolved to improve our diets by eating more fruit. Let’s not stop there. Let’s drink five of them today in Peaks and Pints’ beer flight: Craft Beer Crosscut 1.2.18: A Flight of Cherry.
8% ABV, 8 IBU
Lambics are sharp, acidic and fruity. They can be compared to yogurt or vinegar but with hints of sweetness. New Belgium’s cherry lambic, Transatlantic Kriek, is a little different. The Fort Collins brewery partnered with an “Old” Belgium brewer, Oud Beersel, which sent a big stash of their cherry lambic to Colorado. New Belgium blended the lambic with its own golden lager. In spite of the bright red color and soft pink head, it’s not a flavor bomb that jumps out at you. The cherry nose gives way to a pleasingly sour flash across the palate that rolls gently into a slightly sweet finish.
5.6% ABV, 9 IBU
Brewed and blended by Ommegang‘s sister brewery Liefmans in Belgium, Rosetta combines old (aged on cherries at least three years) and young Flemish brown ale (or oud bruin) with a lively and fruity kriek, or cherry beer. The blend, which was developed by Ommegang Brewmaster Phil Leinhart, results in a complex yet refreshing mahogany-brown brew that is an intriguing interplay of tartness and sweetness.
New Belgium’s suspended its popular Lips of Faith series for its new cork and cage Wood Cellar Reserve series, which includes Single Foeder Oscar No. 65 aged in the only American oak foeder in the brewery’s forest of French oak foeders — the 65th foeder, named Stars and Strikes, which was won in a game of bowling. Aged for 12 months in 100 percent Missouri white oak, hand-bottled, conditioned for months, and 100 percent naturally carbonated, Single Foeder Oscar No. 65 pours reddish, burnt orange with a thin, oily head. It carries a huge oak and red wine notes, cherry tart with soft berry.
7.2% ABV, 35 IBU
Walking Man Brewing has been walking the walk since 1999, brewing award-winning beers in a tiny brewhouse along the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington. Head brewer James Landers brews his flagship Black Cherry Stout with seven grains including flaked oats for a complex brew with big chocolate and coffee flavors that mesh beautifully with sweet, rich cherries. The aroma and flavor have roasted malts, dark chocolate, black cherries, some earthy notes, hint of tart cherries plus oatmeal softness due to our nitro dispenser.
11.5% ABV, 70 IBU
People have been making pilgrimages to Portland for Alan Sprints’ beer since the dark ages — back when hazy and sour beers weren’t made that way intentionally. Hair of the Dog’s Doggie Claws, a holiday-themed barleywine, is brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo hops along with Organic Pilsner malt, British crystal and dark wild flower honey collected on Mt. Hood. It smells of thick, decadent caramel coupled with notes of raisins, molasses and dark fruits. First sip brings a sweet caramel-raisin infused maltiness that carries hints of dark fruits, cherry and sourdough. This is followed by a nice wave of piney, citric, herbal hop bitterness causing a nice interplay between the sweet and bitter aspects of the craft beer.