Doctor Duvel

I'm like a sommelier, but for beer.

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Location: Upstate New York, United States

Favorite Beers: Orval, Samuel Smith, Duvel, Hennepin, Oude Gueze, Chimay, Dogfish Head, Anchor Steam, and anything made by Trappist monks.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

De Ranke Kriek

So I just have to mention that I went way out of my way yesterday to make sure I had one more really stunning beer in So. Cal. Lucky Baldwins had De Ranke Kriek and I drove out just to have a bottle yesterday, as it's a very rare beer and I've seen it nowhere else. Even at the bar price it was a pretty good deal too. So the De Ranke guys used to use Rodenbach yeast and they were hired at one point early on to do a basic Belgian pale for a nearby restaurant or something. Without the severe hopping regimen that their other beers get, the wild yeasts in the Rodenbach went ape-shit and they wound up with a big tank of ultra-sour beer that no-one wanted. As the importer's website (the spectacular Shelton Bros.) details, they spent a couple years fiddling around blending it with this and that and throwing cherries in it and eventually struck a really great balance. They keep a tank of ultra sour base beer that they blend with younger beer and Kriek-ify annually. It's basically a lambic because they also blend in about 30% Girardin lambic. An odd way to make a beer, but hey, it works. 1500 bottles a year is the full production.

The result is a 7% a.b.v. sour cherry beer that is for initiates only. When I ordered it, this European girl came out from behind the bar with the bottle, to make sure I knew what I was getting before she opened it--a query along the lines of: "you know this is really sour, right?" As a brewer, I found this cute and slightly touching--God forbid they would open it for some dip-shit expecting Lindemann's Kriek and have it sent back. So, I assured her that I -wanted- a really sour beer and they cracked it open. The bottle said to drink by 11/08, which would mean it was bottled 11/03, so it had a little additional bottle age. I like the De Ranke labelling and dating by the way--very transparent system, assuming you can read French (more or less) or Flemish (nope).

It's on the brown side of red, moderately opaque, with a durable pinkish head. Basically, it's a stunning beer. The nose is quite earthy, with deep, deep cherry elements woven in. It has a great big barnyardy thing going on with hints of soil and damp wool, along with whiffs of almond and vanilla. A later, warmer glass was even more intense: a huge, fat, sour, winey, earthy, dirty assault--but in a good way. On the palate it is shatteringly crisp, with a vivid tartness and rich cherried, nutty flavors; it is vigorously sparkling and scours the palate in a fun way. Very lambicy overall, it has a lingering, sour, parching finish. This would make an unbelievable starter to a long Belgian meal. And, my god, would I prefer this to any bottle of champagne. . . Ultimately, this beer produced what my dissertation advisor would call an artificial blitheness--one of the best things I've ever drunk. So where can I find some sour Flemish cherries?? Anyone??


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