Tasting Belgian Fruit Lambics
We love to serve fruit lambic in wine glasses so you can really savor the scent.
Boon Kriek 4% ABV
This was the most soda-like of the beers we tried, with just a hint of tartness, along with a bit of quinine and lemon peel flavor. Mainly, though, it's melted cherry Lifesavers, cherry Koolaid, veering toward cough syrup. If you're looking for funk, don't look here.
Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait 8% ABV
This tangy cherry beer is cleaner and more accessible than some that we tried, but definitely more complex than the standard Boon Kriek. It has a delicate musky, barnyardy note hiding behind the fresh fruit flavors. We were reminded of the taste of cherry yogurt: This one is pleasantly sweet and sour. It's easy to drink, but it's not a beer you brood over.
Hanssens Artisanaal Oude Kriek 6% ABV
We don't know how to rate this one—some people will fall in love with its musty basement notes, its rich, intensely tart sour cherry and cranberry flavors, and its wild funky weirdness. There are whiffs of lemon peel and wine. Others will find it harsh, with gasoline and nail polish remover notes overpowering the fruit, and more horseblanket than they care to swallow. At the very least, it's mighty interesting. Be sure not to serve straight from the fridge—it needs to warm a little.
**1/2 to ****1/2, it's your call.
Oud Beersel Framboise 5% ABV
On the nose: raspberries in the forest. There are earthy undertones and intense jammy fruit flavors—you can taste the raspberry seeds, too. This beer is a great introduction to traditional lambic; it's not that far off from the natural fruit sodas you may remember from growing up, but it's a step up in complexity from Lindemans. Pair this beer with seared duck breast or crispy pork belly.
Cantillon Saint Lamvinus (2009) 5% ABV
Our local beer store has trouble keeping beers from Cantillon in stock—they always sell out immediately. This special vintage lambic is made with Merlot grapes and aged in oak casks. The scent is like grape jelly and tart fresh goat cheese, but it's a little more sour on the nose than in your mouth. It's a smooth, rich-tasting beer without being an alcoholic monster. Soft sweet grape flavors are balanced with black cherry notes and a hint of red wine vinegar, but we felt like the oak flavors were a little heavy. They might mellow over time. Though there were hints of wet dog and funky ammonia, this beer wasn't quite as fascinating as we'd hoped, and it's quite pricey at $35.
Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek 6% ABV
This exceptionally flavorful brew fermented in the barrel with hand-picked, locally grown whole cherries. It's full of juicy and puckeringly tart cherry lemonade flavors, but behind the fruit, things get funky. It's a musty, earthy, fascinating beer, with tannins from the oak barrels, and barnyard notes from wild yeast and bacteria. It tastes a little like licking some suede; if you're a fan of stinky cheese and natural wine, this should be right up your alley. It's a contemplative, palate-expanding beer, and one of our favorite examples of the style.