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Editorial Dept.'s picture

Top 100 Beers of 2019

top beers 2019



by Rick Franckhauser
Oude Kriek
pFriem Family Brewers

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Head Brewer Gavin Lord Talks Oude Kriek

Who was responsible for this beer’s recipe?
Our beers live in a state of constant evolution. Recipe, process, raw ingredients, concept – all are subject to change in the name of quality. Our production team seeks to constantly improve our offerings one minor tweak at a time, and in this way, we’re all responsible for each recipe. In this case, our team is expanded to include Brian McCormick, our cherry grower, who is an extraordinary winemaker and a great friend of the brewery. His insight has been invaluable over the years in helping us select fruit, refine our process, blend varieties and understand how a cherry’s aroma and flavor will develop and change over time.

How popular is this beer among your faithful fans?
Kriek was among the first four fruited Lambic-inspired beers we ever produced and has been consistently well received. We now produce about a dozen beers in this family annually, and Kriek tends to lead the charge in terms of volume and sales. I think it’s a familiar combination of exciting yet comforting flavors that sets it apart from the others and makes it so great for special occasions.

Can you describe this beer in 10 words or less?
Light, dry, tart, berry. Cherry pie and rose petals.

Do you know a story – or have a personal story – that revolves around this beer?
We make sure that our production team gets out to the orchard every year to pick at least some portion of our cherries. Brewers and packagers don picking buckets and climb orchard ladders into the canopy of 100-year-old Bing, Van and Royal Anne trees, chasing next year’s Kriek. Brian’s property, named for his winery, Idiot’s Grace, is just five miles east of the brewery. Cherries typically ripen in June in the Gorge, which puts them at risk of late spring rains, and last year was no exception. The forecasted storm inspired a sense of urgency, and we got the last of our fruit off just before the first lightning struck a nearby ridge. The relief of avoiding electrocution blended with the gratification of the day’s work and the anticipation of this year’s release all combined to produce a giddy atmosphere in the brewery as we racked barrels onto fruit.

What’s a good food pairing for this beer?
Aged cheeses and charcuterie, duck, venison and chocolate volcano cake.

Judge’s Second Opinion

I concluded my review of Oude Kriek by making the claim that this is what world-class beer tastes like. I feel confident that others who appreciate the complexities of the style will agree. The balancing act of combining all those peculiar aromatics and flavors into one harmonious beer is what sets Oude Kriek apart. Admittedly, Lambic is not everyone’s cup of tea (or beer). The addition of fruits, like the cherries for a Kriek, may move the beer slightly to the more approachable range for some drinkers, others just can’t make the trip. I get that, it’s a strange brew. However, its oddities may be the key source of my appreciation. I love diversity, and as with life, beer without diversity would just be boring.

Upon sampling my first Lambic, I was blown away by the complexity and variety of aromas and flavors I was experiencing in that one bottle. Later, I discovered the Kriek style, and found cherries to be the perfect accompaniment to the funky sourness. The great examples of the style exhibit multiple funky notes along with a blend of citric and lactic acid elements, perhaps a touch of acetic acid, not overly high vinegar levels and even a little malic acid from the cherries or raspberries in the fruited variants, all coalescing for a complex balance that seems to transform with each sample.

While I prefer authentic Belgian examples of this style, there are a few fine U.S. versions and pFriem’s Oude Kriek is certainly one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The cherries are prominent without being dominant and they come across as fermented fresh cherries, nothing artificial or overly sweet. The funky aspects are present without being over-the-top or off-putting. The blend of acidity is complex, not the one-dimensional citric or lactic versions that are more common. Some of the wheat malt character comes through helping to balance the sourness. A nice dry finish promotes another sip. Everything is there interacting in a complex and complementary manner. Each whiff and each sip provide a new experience and another level of the beer is revealed.

I love it when a beer captures my attention and takes me on a little trip where the scenery is familiar yet new, causing me to focus on the beer and providing pleasant little surprises along the way. Oude Kriek checks off all the boxes for meeting the style, but, more importantly, it takes your senses for a nice ride too. - Rick Franckhauser


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