Through the good offices of my wife I've accumulated a bit of a collection of sweet Belgian fruit beers. She knows I have something of a weakness for these concoctions and always have an eye out for new ones. So, one sunny evening before summer finally took down the umbrellas and brought in the tables for another year I decided to have a clear out.
First up was Lindemans Apple. A mere 3.5% ABV, this, due I'm sure to 25% of its bulk consisting of apple juice, the rest being lambic beer and some flavours and colours for good measure. The result is an opaque orange-yellow beer that could easily pass for unfiltered cider until you sniff it. In the aroma the apples take a back seat to massive sweet sugar with some mild acetone: like shoving two Jolly Ranchers up your nose. But all is forgiven on the first mouthful. Yes, it's sweet, get over it. There's also a proper crisp green apple tang and if you let it hang about for a second it's possible to detect the wheat and even hops of the underlying beer. Best of all is the light effervescence instead of full-on fizz, meaning it went down the hatch in pretty short order. Refreshing.
Second beer was Pecheresse, one that has long amused me, not because of the beer itself -- I'd never tasted it -- but because of how it's categorised on the menu of Chez Moeder Lambic in Brussels: Contrary to the picture above it's only 2.5% ABV, but I can see why they chose to mention the sirop: it's syrup all the way here, only barely discernible as peach so concentrated is it. The beer is almost flat and tastes of nothing else except the sickly fruit gunk. I have a genuine love of sweet beers, but I find it difficult to believe any adult could enjoy drinking this one.
And finally we have Kriek Max, and unlike the foregoing joke beers, this one comes with credentials: a gold medal for best kriek at the 2011 World Beer Awards.The pour produces a lovely serious blood-red body topped by an altogether more frivilous pink fluffy head. There's no escaping the sugar here, its laid on pretty thickly but it does serve a purpose: buoying up a very full-on cherryade flavour. You know you have a kriek in front of you. For just 3.2% ABV it packs in rather a lot of fun fruity taste without being overpoweringly artificial. But best kriek in the world? Maybe not.
And after that, the side effects. These low ABV, soft-textured beers may be easy to chug down on a warm evening on the patio, but I could feel my heart rate accelerating by half way through the session and at the end I was ready to bounce off the walls. Something big and hoppy was required as a downer and palate cleaner afterwards.
Westmalle Dubbel - *Origin: Belgium | Date: 2008 | ABV: 7% | On The Beer Nut: October 2007* It's a longtime favourite today. Westmalle Dubbel goes back to the very beginnings...
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