When it comes to sour beers, Belgian lambics are widely-regarded as king.
Lambic brewing is a Belgian tradition dating back hundreds or even thousands of years and is considered the oldest surviving commercial brewing style in the world. The beer is made by taking the hot wort1 and allowing it to cool over night exposed to the open air. There is a roughly 500-square-mile area that includes Brussles, Belgium and Payottenland2 that has the right mixture of airborne spores that are needed to create the flavors a true lambic consistently.3
Once the aging process is complete4 Lambics are often blended before serving. Different fruits are often added to the blend to create a wide range of different flavors. Raspberries (Framboise) and sour cherries (Kriek) are two of the most common fruits used.
Craft breweries in American have been trying to mimic the lambic-style with various degrees of success. Odell Brewing in Fort Collins Colo. has its own version of a Belgian lambic-style beer called Friek. The name Friek is a blend of Framboise and Kriek to signify the addition of both sour cherries and raspberries. Odell takes multiple “Kriek Lambic style ales” that are fermented with wild yeast strains and bacteria similar to the ones found in Belgium, then ages the beers in oak barrels with sour cherries. Once the beer is deemed ready, fresh raspberries are added right before bottling. The sweetness of the fresh fruit is meant to cut the sour cherry flavor that has developed during the beers time aging in the barrels.
Friek is released as part of Odell’s limited Cellar Series which comes in a 750ml corked and caged bottle. Sadly, Odell is not distributed to my home state of California but, thanks to Tenemu, I get to crack open a bottle to see what the fine folks at Odell came up with as there stab at the Lambic style. The beer pours somewhere between red and pink with a small layer of fizzy white bubbles that dissipate almost as fast as I pour.
A quick sniff of the beer brings that musty sour cherry smell reminiscent of a good Kriek. The beer smells fairly acidic but does not come off like it will be a sour bomb. There is just a hint of vinegary acetic acid but the musty cherries are really the dominant character.
Upon my first sip the first thing I notice is the lively mouth feel. Based on the complete lack of head retention I did not expect the beer to drink like fizzy soda water. I was also surprised by the very distinct fresh berry flavors in the beer. The beer smells like musty cherries but tastes like fresh raspberries. The bright fleshy berry flavors really mix well with the moderate level of acidity and the bubbly mouth feel. It really does drink like fruity, sour soda water. The raspberries add an enjoyable sweetness that helps cut through the sourness of the beer. The sweetness carries through into the mouth watering finish that leaves you really wanting another sip.