03 June 2011

In vitro veritas

Session logoThe Session this month is brought to us by the All Over Beer blog, and the theme is breweriana and collectables. I doubt I'll be the only one writing about glassware. I have quite a few glasses. While I'm not the sort who believes being served a beer in a glass branded with another name amounts to misselling, I do think glass choice is important for more than reasons of presentation.

It's all about aroma: aromatic beers work best from a wide-mouthed glass. If the vapours aren't given room to manoevure the whole beer experience can suffer. It's for this reason that my default glass for beers I'm not sure about is the Duvel one: an over-sized brandy snifter that will happily hold half a litre and shows off aroma beautifully.

It's not the only oversized brandy snifter in the Belgian beer world, however. Last time I was emptying my wallet at the beer-and-merchandise stall in Cantillon, I threw in one of their delightfully delicate kriek glasses. I don't use it a whole lot and it certainly hadn't seen any Cantillon Kriek until just last week when a selection beers from the Brussels lambic specialist arrived home with my darling wife. Cellar them? My arse.

So out with the kriek glass and in with the beer. It looks beautiful, doesn't it? A lustrous opaque pinkish-red, curved seductively like a giant juicy cherry. The glass really does its bit to show off the beer.

There's little by way of head and the taste is, perhaps unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly sour. I expected the cherry flavour to be more pronounced, but you have to dig deep under the brickiness to find it. What little there is is quite concentrated, like waxy cherry skin rather than sweet juice. Perhaps it would calm down and develop more balance if it were aged a while, but I enjoyed its vigorous youthful sourness, finding it refreshing and mouth-watering.

Just to test the effects of age on lambic fruit character, and to show off my other Cantillon glass, I opened a bottle of Lou Pepe Framboise straight after, a beer I don't think I've ever tasted. It's a 2008 vintage, bottled in 2010 and much less tart than the kriek. It's not just the extra age that produces this effect: Lou Pepe beers have more fruit than the ordinary range and are aged in freshly-acquired Bordeaux barrels. You can read more about the process on the Cantillon website here.

In place of the intense sourness (it's still pretty damn sour, mind) there's a sort of raspberry-flavoured nuttiness, like raspberry seeds. The crispness of this fruit flavour sits really well next to the puckering dryness of the underlying lambic. I wouldn't be a massive fan of raspberries in beer, but this was highly enjoyable. It's getting on for a decade since I last drank Lou Pepe Kriek so I think I may be sending m'lady off on search of some that when she returns to Brussels in a couple of weeks. I have just the glass for it.


  1. Very interesting post, which reminds me I really need to broaden my fruit beer horizens. Any you would particularly reccomend?

    Also, have you voted on my blog poll about beer glasses and if they effect aroma/flavour?

  2. I've a stack of old Belgian cups, chalices and other bits and bobs that a kind old lady donate to me via Freecycle. I haven't even unwrapped them all yet, I think I'll do so this weekend...

  3. Neil, it's hard to know where to start with a field as wide as "fruit beer". The Cantillon ones are great, but I'm also fond of sweeter fare like Bon Secours Myrtille and Apple Bocq, yet they're all very different from each other. Just avoid the Floris range. And yes, I've voted on the poll.

    Mark, this sounds worryingly like the beginning of one of those Leeds-Man-Discovers-Priceless-Antique-In-Junk-Glassware stories.

  4. I don't have a Cantillon brandy snifter, but we use our Cantillon sherry-type wine glasses all the time. For orange juice. And sometimes for sherry.

  5. I don't think I've seen the sherry-type ones. As good an excuse to go back as any...