Published on April 2nd, 2017 | by Brussels In View0
Sampling Belgium’s famous fruit beers
Belgian beer fan James Wilson gets a little fruity for spring
With the arrival of spring, why not refresh your dinner parties with the stylish inclusion of some of Belgium’s famous fruit beers? The flavours of this genre of beer are ideal for spring and for summer.
A well chilled Framboise in a fluted glass is a delicious and stylish apéritif with a difference; a Kriek served with cheesecake for dessert is a special pairing of flavours that works wonderfully well to round off the meal.
The raspberry (framboise) and cherry (kriek) flavours are the two best known of Belgium’s fruit beers; but there are many other flavours to sample including apple, peach and blackcurrant. All of these fruit beers are light in alcohol, and typically have a slightly dry and tangy taste.
We can thank Belgium for the originality and creativeness to break the mould of the German Rheinheitsgebot, and experiment with different ingredients to produce the outstanding world quality beers of this fruit flavoured genre.
Traditionally, Kriek is made in Belgium by breweries using Lambic beer to which dark red Morello cherries are added. The best known cherries for this variety were originally from wild trees in Schaerbeek, but urban development and high demand for the product has forced brewers to extend sources for the fruit to other production areas; some now also use fruit concentrate rather than whole fruit.
Lambic beers are fermented spontaneously with open-air exposure of the malted barley and brewing wort to airborne wild yeasts and micro-bacteria native both to the valley of the River Senne to the south west of Brussels, and found in the city itself.
This process is carried out between October and May. The Lambic beer is then aged in oak barrels to give it a tart flavour; the cherries with their pips, (or other fruit, such as raspberries) are added for a further fermentation giving the final product a distinctive fruit flavour but one that is not without sweetness.
One of the more famous breweries specialising in this genre of brewing is the Cantillon Brewery in Anderlecht. They offer regular guided visits and, this month, they have a special public brewing day on Saturday 18 March for those interested to learn more about this unique style of brewing.
Two larger breweries in Belgium that produce Lambic style Kriek and Framboise beers are Lindemans and Mort Subite; their bottled products are readily available in the main supermarket chains. Kriek on draught is very popular in Belgium and is available in the better specialist bars in Brussels serving traditional beers. Kriek is also widely used in Belgian cuisine for recipes such as Lapin a la Kriek.