Monday, March 01, 2010

Belgian Beer Review 15: Drie Fontein Oude Kriek

A relatively newbie to the spontaneously fermented Belgian beers, I only recently discovered Armand Debelder. Joe Strange has several notes about the master lambic and geuze blender over at Thirsty Pilgrim. It was the post announcing the brewery's intent to stop brewing, start distilling, and go back to blending that caught my attention. I read the post with great interest, given my current expedition, and figured maybe somehow I'd be able to get my hands on a bottle of Drie Fonteinen if I was lucky. My family and I are traveling to the east coast at the end of this month and I thought I *might* be able to hunt down a bottle in NYC or Boston.

So it was a pretty big surprise when I stumbled upon it at Belmont Party Supply, the craft-beer mecca literally within walking distance of my house. Not only that, but they have both the Oude Kreik and the Oude Geuze. Picked up the Kreik, and on the next trip need to get several bottles of the Geuze--some for now and some to set aside.

A note about the beer, since with the exception of the beer geeks in my audience (although if you've stayed with me this far into this post, its probably time to admit you might be one), aged, blended, sour fruit beers aren't ones most folks have tried. Lambics and Gueuze beers are oddities of the beer world, in that they rely most heavily on the local micro flora to achieve their distinctive sour flavors. In addition, these beers are aged for years in oak barrels and are prized not only for their individual flavors, but for their ability to meld with other vintages. Like meritage wines, the young and aged lambics are blended together to draw out the best of both beers (a gueuze being merely that blend). In addition, to increase the types of flavors available, fruits--notably sour cherries or raspberries--are added. Odd as it sounds, the results are incredible. Intense and at the same time palate cleansing, the straight beers are the Limburger cheeses of the beer worlds and the fruit beers are the sorbets.

Brewery: Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen (via Google Translate, since source page is in Dutch)
Brewery Location: Belgium
Beer: Oude Kriek
BJCP Style:
17F. Fruit Lambic
Serving: Bottle

Appearance: From the time I uncorked the tiny 12 oz bottle, I knew I was in for a treat. Pours a rich cherry red with a rose-colored bubbly head. The picture doesn't do this beer justice--it is a beautiful beer.

Smell: Surprisingly, although present, the cherries don't overpower. Instead, they blend well with the sour barnyard character of the lambic to create a very balanced bouquet.

Taste: Sometimes sour fruit beers can be too over the top. In fact, I've had enough disappointing ones that I approached this one a little apprehensively. I could not have been more wrong. This beer is fantastically refreshing. Sour beers are intensely refreshing, in the way a tart pink lemonade can be in the middle of a sweltering July afternoon. The fruit adds depth to the sour, and mellows out the funkier flavors to make this incredibly thirst-quenching.

Mouthfeel: A very dry beer with a clean finish, which is a bit surprising given the boxes of cherries that I know went into this ale.

Drinkability: These beers won't be around for too much longer and it seems unlikely that you'll be able to get Debelder's blends stateside, so pick up a few bottles now and stick them under the stairwell for later. Although only 6 percent, they'll keep for up to ten years from the bottling date. Just don't get them at Belmont. I've got dibs on those bottles.