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I’ll have a beer with a cherry on top

CherriesThere’s a profusion of cherry-flavored beers on the market, but most are anything but sweet.  Our picks among the best.


Life is just a bowl of cherries, or should I say, a glass of cherry beer.

With cherry season now at its peak in North America, it’s as good a time as any to be tasting cherry beers. And, there’s a slew of them out there as brewers increasingly turn to this red stone fruit, known botanically as pruneus avium (sweet cherry) or prunus cerasus (sour cherry), to add another dimension to their beers. So popular are cherry beers that as I write this Kriekfest, a celebration of cherry beers and ciders, is underway in Oregon.

To be sure, cherry beers have been around for ages. Belgian brewers have produced krieks—lambics flavored with tart cherries – for centuries. And there are Flanders red-brown ales, such as Rodenbach Cuvee Alexander, made since the early 19th Century. (Rodenbach reintroduced Alexander this year as a limited edition beer after production ended in 1998.)

Cherry beers have been craft specialties since the 1990s. Boston Beer Co. introduced Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat Beer (not a personal favorite and I’ve not had it recently) and New Glarus in Wisconsin introduced its Belgian Red, which soon won the brewery accolades, awards and cult status.

More recently, brewers have been producing a profusion of cherry-flavored sours beers, their own spins on kriek, as well as goses, stouts, wheat ales and more.

I’ve spent the last few weeks sampling as many cherry beers — Belgian, British and American — as I could find. Some were exceptional, others horrible disappointments. Some were reminiscent of cough medicine. Others were redolent of cherry aromas and flavors. And in some cherry notes were barely detectable (Why add cherries if no one can’t taste them?).

Not surprisingly, Belgian krieks rated highest on my list, but even among these there was great diversity from brewer to brewer.

Here are tasting notes from my effort:

beer-_25654_sm_0ad84b2561aada098d5176eb2162f1Oude Kriek (Vielle)Brouwerij Oud Beersel, Belgium. Deep red with a petty-in-pink head. Meld of cherries and oak notes all lovely balance. *****


beer-8341_373b5_smSt. Louis Gueze Fond Tradition. Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck, Belgium. Brick red with a huge ripe cherry palate. Perfect tartness. Not a shy beer. ******


beer-679637_c1cc1_smNancyAllagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME. Golden hue. Brett, earth nose. Extremely tart, faint cherry notes, but lip smacking all the same. Balanced. *****


beer-_467139_sm_7826d62272252e65d1b1573741ad39Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please With A Cherry on Top.  Evil Twin Brewing, Mt. Pleasant, SC. Deep brown with a mocha head, an alcoholic nose. Chocolate, sweet malty and caramel notes on the palate with a wine-like quality. Quite likable despite the hidden cherries. **** ¾


beer-KriekCuveeRene_39549Oude Kriek Cuvee Rene. Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium. Bright Crimson. Oaky Brett nose. Oak then cherries then Brett notes on the palate. Dry! ****½


beer-972795_68cce_smKirsch Gose. Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA. Salmon hue. Salty, bready, cherries. A delightful surprise. Slight tart finish. ****½


beer-_331435_sm_77bcfb3c2bd619473d1587edbb5beeSpontan Cherry FrederikdalMikkeller, Denmark. Deep Reddish purple w/small pink head. Tart cherry aroma. Concentrated cherry palate offset by dry oaky notes. Lip smacking finish. ****½


beer-KriekBoon_2565Kriek. Brouwerij Boon, Belgium. Cranberry hue. Cherry nose. Carbonated cherry juice. Easy quaff w/dry finish. ****¼



beer-941039_8b820_smSt. Louis Kriek. Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck, Belgium. Light red. Medicinal nose that gives way to wonderful bright tart Cherry candy flavors. Easy drinking. ****¼


beer-1056584_60f2e_smKentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale.  Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., Lexington, KY Deep gold w/bright white head. Honey whiskey aroma. Lotsa wood but the fruit notes are no show. Round mouthfeel. ****¼


beer-1201496_53365_smSmuttlabs Cherry Short Weiss.  Smuttynose Brewing Co., Hampton, NH. Cloudy gold. Sharp nose. Cherry palate. Soft tart finish. ****


beer-754491_62b87_smCerise Sour BlondAlmanac Beer Company. San Francisco, CA Cloudy deep gold. Seriously sour. Hint of cherries. Dry, acidic finish. ****


beer-1452658_a78cb_smExpletus. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO. Light copper. No head. Sharp sour notes. Just a hint of cherries. Just the barest suggestion of oak and not a hint of tequila. Refreshing all the same. ***¾


821699LOrganic Cherry Ale. Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery, England. Light red, Jolly Rancher candy nose and palate. Black Forest cake finish. ***½


beer-CherryStout_4138Cherry Stout. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, MI. Roasty nose with notes of chocolate and roasted grain. Hint of sweetness in the finish. Cherry not discernible. ***½


beer-1549430_e6569_smKettle-Soured Dark Cherry Imperial Red (Savor Series). Fort Collins Brewery, Fort Collins, CO. Cherry red hue. Muddied nose. Residual sweetness but hops, fruit and Brett clash. Disappointing. ***¼


beer-652375_124fa_smKriek Lambic. Free Will Brewing Co., Perkasie, PA Peach hue. Brett nose. Quite tart. Cherries only in the background. Overwhelmed by Brett. ***¼


beer-902019_89398_smMosh Pit Tart Cherry Ale. No-Li Brewhouse, Spokane, WA. Amber. Bitter. Near impossible to pick up the fruits. ***


beer-3095_c11c3_smKriek. Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium Crimson. Candied nose. Cherry soda, wine cooler like. Juicy.***


beer-728652_96ab2_smBlood & Guts (2015).  Free Will Brewing Co., Perkasie, PA. Deep brown. Chocolate, chicory nose. Brett and chocolate notes, light tart cherry near the finish. **¾








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Evil Twin beers will garner your attention for many reasons

Evil Twin logoIf the eye-catching labels of Evil Twin’s distinctive brews don’t get your attention, their names — among them Bikini Beer, Plastic Man, Femme Fatale, Justin Blåbær, Imperial Biscotti Break—will do the job. And once you’ve tasted them, they’ll have your full attention.

Recently, I tasted a selection of the beers created by Evil Twin’s Danish creative genius, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who is the twin brother of the equally iconoclastic Mikkeller founder and brewmaster, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. The tasting, which I curated, took place at a meeting of a local beer club, Long Islanders for Fermentation Enjoyment, which meets monthly to share new beers.

Evil Twin is a gypsy or nomadic brewer (not unlike Mikkeller or Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project), producing its beers at breweries with extra capacity and a willing brewer. Evil Twin’s beers originally were produced at various breweries around Europe and were first imported to the U.S. two years ago by Brooklyn-based Twelve Percent Imports. Now, having moved from Copenhagen to Brooklyn, Jarnit-Bjergsø utilizes Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., to produce the beers under contract.

The tasting included beers across a wide range of strengths, styles and flavors. Some were easy to drink; others made with Brettanomyces (a yeast sometimes known as Brett) had a more distinct flavor profile as did a beer made in the style of a Berliner Weise. And, the most potent beer of all proved to be, perhaps, the most interesting and most pleasurable of the bunch.

Some of my notes from the tasting:

Bikini labelBikini Beer, IPA. 2.7% abv. A bottled version (it’s also available in cans) of this lightweight IPA, brewed at Lervig Aktiebryggeri, Norway, that Jarnit-Bjergsø describes on his web site as “a sissy beer” for inexperienced craft beer drinkers. It’s a golden, extraordinarily light-bodied brew with a big hoppy nose. ★★★

Plastic Man labelPlastic Man Saison Farmhouse Ale. 5.5% abv. Brewed at Westbrook in collaboration with Chicago’s Local Option Brewing, this cloudy, gold brew offers up a spicy nose and a spice-box palate. Bitter and dry on the finish.  ★★½

Yazu labelFemme Fatale Yuzu Pale. 6% abv.  An American-style IPA flavored with Yuzu, a small, citrus fruit that tastes like a cross of a lemon and an orange, and fermented with Brettanomyces. Originally brewed in Denmark, it’s now made at Westbrook Brewing, Mt. Pleasant, It’s a pale, cloudy gold with a white head and lemony nose There’s lemon and a bitter funkiness on the palate and it’s surprisingly refreshing. ★★★★½   

Femme Fatale Noir lableFemme Fatale Noir. 6% abv. Originally brewed in Demark and now at Westbrook, this is an American-style black IPA fermented with Brettanomyces. Ebony in color with a mocha head it offers notes of chocolate, smoke and licorice notes. The funky character seems muted. ★★★★

Nomader wit labelNoMader Wit. 5% abv.  Brewed at Westbrook, this is a Brett-fermented wit beer with traditional coriander and orange peel seasonings.  It’s a cloudy gold and exudes funk and spice. Wondering if it might be more pleasurable sans Brett. ★★½

Justin Blaber labelJustin Blåbær Blueberry Beer. 4.5% abv. Brewed at Westbrook in collaboration with the  Charleston Beer Exchange, a craft beer store, this is a blueberry flavored brew in the Berliner Weise style. Blåbær, by the way, is the Danish word for blueberry. It’s cloudy gold with a white head. The nose is tart, as is the palate and the finish, well, strongly acidic. You’ve got to be a fan of the style to appreciate this. ★★★★

Biscotti break labelImperial Biscotti Break. 11.5% abv. Another Danish original now brewed at Westbrook, this is an imperial Porter with coffee and, perhaps, vanilla and almonds (they’re not identified on the label. This is a deep-brown hued brew with a short mocha head. On the nose there are notes of coffee and vanilla nose. On the palate, layer after layer of flavors unfold with notes of raisins, nuts and chocolate. Perfect for after dinner. ★★★★★

Based on this tasting, I can’t wait to try the many other Evil Twin brews. Which have you tried? What were your impressions?



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