Country of Origin
Kriek is a lambic beer originating from Belgium. Lambics are sour and dry beers native to Brussels which are fermented with airborne yeast. Kriek was traditionally made in breweries in and near Brussles using Schaarbeekse krieken, a rare Belgian Morello cherry variety. Whole cherries, including the pits, were added to the beer to create a signature sour and dry beer. While the beer was initially popular in Brussels and surrounding areas, Kriek became more well known after the style was on display at the 1897 World’s Fair in Brussels.
During and shortly after WWI, soft drinks grew in popularity and in response, brewers began sweetening Kriek to make it more appealing to consumers. This time period also saw restrictions placed on brewers. The quantity and quality of ingredients needed for Lambic beers fell, and Kriek was brewed with added flavouring and colouring.
As Schaarbeekse krieken became harder to find, it was replaced with other varieties of sour cherries, both domestic and imported. More modern versions of Kriek include added sugar to make the beer more approachable. Cherry juice is also commonly substituted for whole cherries, and modern Kriek beers are aged and matured for much shorter periods than traditionally.
Kriek comes from the Flemmish word for "cherry".
A traditional Kriek has a sour, funky and dusky flavour from the spontaneous fermentation. Bright fruit flavours should be apparent, but the "in your face" sourness should be front and centre. For drinkers not familiar with Lambics, this beer style can be startling, and potentially off-putting upon first taste, but as you enjoy a pint, the complexity of the flavour profile will balance out.
Kriek is traditionally served in a Brandy style glass or tulip, although a straight walled tumbler is also common. This beer should also be poured slowly and carefully to not disturb the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Kriek should be served chilled, between 40 - 55 ºF (4 - 12 ºC).
Kriek's sour taste profile lends itself to a variety of food pairings. One of the most common foods that pairs with Kriek is a traditional Belgian Waffles - the sweet richness of the dish is the perfect complement to the tartness of the beer. Other great pairings are soft, rich cheeses like goat cheese, and salty cured meats.
- Be patient. Brewing a Kriek is not going to be a fast process. This beer requires months and possibly years of aging and conditioning. Take care to ferment your Kriek at ale temperatures, checking on it monthly. Also be aware that a pellicle will form on your beer as part of the process. Keep patient and it will sink to the bottom and not effect your end product.
- Use a mixed bacteria yeast. Aside from the use of sour cherries, the yeast used to ferment a Kriek is what sets it apart from other beer styles. You can purchase a Lambic blend yeast from White Labs, or make your own by beginning your fermentation with a neutral ale yeast, then a month later pitch Pediococcus, Lactobaccilus or Brettanomyces.
- Use fresh fruit. You can use concentrated sour cherry juice or fruit puree, but to brew a traditional Kriek, fresh whole sour cherries is the way to go. Use 1 lb of fruit per gallon. Make sure your fruit is washed, and remove stems and any blemishes. Add your fruit to your beer after the beer has been conditioned for 9 months, and leave it in contact with the beer for at least 2 months.
Want to brew your own Kriek?
Try BrewHQ's Kriek Beer Recipe Kit.