Hello Sour Beer Friends!
This past week I have been vacationing in my tropical home away from home.. Aruba! While this tropical island paradise has just about everything an American traveling abroad could ask for (including amazing weather, beautiful beaches, friendly locals, safety virtually everywhere, clean drinking water, english spoken universally, American currency accepted, and they drive on the right side of the road), the island is sadly lacking in craft beer diversity.
Aruba is a Dutch owned island, near the equator, approximately 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. It sits outside of the Hurricane belt and has a thriving tourism economy with a very respectable drinking culture when it comes to spirits. The local food is a mixture of Dutch and Caribbean cuisine. Despite the European food influences, the beer culture in Aruba is fairly undeveloped. A very nice local pilsner called Balashi is brewed on the island and is available virtually everywhere here. The beer has the malt presence of an American lite lager with a bit more hopping than American examples (more in line with a premium European pilsner). This has been my second annual vacation to Aruba, and despite the rather monochromatic beer landscape on the island, I am happy to report that on my second to last day here, I came across a very nice Belgian themed restaurant with a variety of Belgian craft beer on the menu. The restaurant is called A Taste of Belgium, and I was delighted to find one sour beer on the menu among another dozen solid examples of Belgian beers.
Bellevue Kriek Classique was the sour beer on the menu, and due to the fact that I arrived at the restaurant during happy hour, I was able to enjoy two of these nice brews for the price of one. Before I review the beer, I will briefly review the restaurant as well. This will be a common theme among beer reviews on this site (when applicable) as I feel that the atmosphere in which a beer is drank is often a enormous factor into how much it is enjoyed. That being said, the restaurant was wonderful. In addition to the beer menu, a full wine and cocktail menu was also present. While I was enjoying my Bellevue Kriek, my boyfriend enjoyed two great cocktails also available at 2 for 1 during happy hour. Our food was delicious and our waiter was attentive and very pleasant. He made a note to mention that the beer was being served in its proper glassware as is the Belgian tradition. When it came time for the check to be paid, I was pleasantly surprised that the excellent food and beer totaled less than would have been paid on my resort for a similar meal. All in all, it was an excellent experience and I highly recommend A Taste of Belgium to anyone traveling to Aruba.
Now for the full beer review…
When I poured the beer I was greeted with a high level of carbonation which produced a light pink head on top of the deeply ruby colored beer. The beer had an aroma indicating its sweetness in addition to the mild presence of cherries and leather. Upon tasting the beer, the first thing I noticed was a mild to moderate Brettanomyces funk, which in this case was bready and leathery without any noticeable barnyard characteristics. The beer has been backsweetened but not as strongly as other examples I have had of backsweetened krieks such as Lindeman’s Kriek or Boon Kriek. The sour presence of the beer was mild, with a slight acetic (vinegar) note in the sour profile. The cherry flavor was very apparent and didn’t taste artificial.
I found this to be a pleasant drinking kriek. It was not mouth puckeringly sour (higher levels of sour are my preference in lambic beers), but I did find that all of the flavors present were in a proper balance to each other for a backsweetened kriek. The sour level was relatively low but still present, probably in line with examples such as Lindeman’s, Boon, and Oude Beersel. However, I preferred the balance in this beer to those examples. There was a bit more Brettanomyces funk than sourness. The vinegar component of the sour profile was lower than the lactic acid component. Additionally the sweetening, while definitely obvious, wasn’t overdone. The beer didn’t come across as syrupy and the sweetness didn’t overwhelm the sour profile or the leathery/bready presence of the Brettanomyces. The beer was light bodied and effervescent while having a relatively dry aftertaste for a sweetened kriek. Lastly, the beer was well fermented without any obvious defects or off flavors.
Overall I was pleased with this beer, especially given the lack of craft beer in Aruba. For those of you vacationing here, both the restaurant and beer are no-brainers.. you won’t be disappointed. For those of you looking for the very-best-possible example of a kriek, I wouldn’t recommend choosing any backsweetened version, including this one made by Bellevue. However, if compared only to other sweetened krieks, I would recommend this beer above the others. In all, this kriek was a nice mild sour beer that anyone interested in the style should try.