Pinkies out when drinking Liefmans Cuvee-Brut Krieg
Before I even begin, I will say right out front that I am not a fan of lambic or krieg style beers. However well made, I almost never, willingly, opt for any beer 'enhanced' with fruit flavors. I just prefer my beer to taste like beer. Not cherry cola. A krieg is essentially just cherry beer. Liefmans krieg uses an oud bruin style base instead of the usual sour lambic most brewers opt for. This cuts down a might on the sourness, but not nearly enough in my book. The base ale is mixed with cherries and cherry juice and allowed to referment. Bacteria are also encouraged in this style to lend a bit of wildness and even more tart, fruity flavor. As if.
Being proper Belgian brewers, they certainly try to get things right, and if you are all right with the style, Liefmans is a solid example. They only brew the stuff once a year, and then it can be cellared for any length of time – constantly evolving. I understand they've chosen to move away from the rare and hard-to-find sour cherries usually necessary for this style, and have gone with unsweetened cherry juice for the most part. Supposedly, this makes it fruitier and less sour, although those two flavors are always meant to be battling. It is still very sour.
As soon as you pour it, you realize this is beer only in a vague sense. Traditionalists will spout off about how cherries were used before hops as beer flavoring. Technically, this is probably correct, but there are reasons why innovation is usually a good thing. Since a brown ale is used as the base in this version, it looks more brownish red than is often the case. The head only has a hint of pinkish hue. It smells, surprise, of cherries. Like old fashioned wild cherry cough drops or, maybe, black cherry soda. Not a horrible odor, it just isn't the way I like my beer to smell.
It tastes like cherry soda mixed with a couple drops of beer. Okay, it's better than that, but still not my cup of tea. Liefmans isn't as crazily over-the-top sweet as it could have been. The sour cherries dominate this beverage, as they are meant to, and the sweetness loses out to the tart. If you can get past all that, the bacteria lend some interesting flavors underneath everything, especially as it warms – muskiness and even additional acidic tones. Not a beer for a long session, though, that's for sure. One will be plenty.
So, what do you do with this, so-called, beer? Put it in a tulip glass, let it warm a bit, and drink it in tiny lady-like sips. Pinky out, please. This is definitely a dessert, and in my opinion, a dessert only beer. I'm thinking it would go great with a slab of chocolate cake. The only time you'd want two of these things in a sitting is if you mean to polish off the entire cake. Have a girlfriend who hates beer, but feels like she needs to bond with you over a couple? Let her try this; she'll almost certainly like it. It tastes nothing like beer, but is still complex and probably enjoyable to some. This is the beer for sherry drinking grandmothers everywhere. But, alas, not for me.
If you do like the tart fruitiness of a typical krieg, Liefmans is a very good choice, though. Or, if you need a little something special to serve with the chocolate cake at your beer tasting dinner, this is ideal. It also makes a nice Valentine's Day gift. It comes wrapped in a fancy red paper wrapper, and would do well washing down a chocolate truffle or two. Personally, I'd skip it and wait for St. Patrick's Day.