Today we unveil this year’s vintage of Devil’s Kriek, our Lambic-style beer made with Bing cherries grown on my orchard, Double Mountain Orchards, in the Hood River Valley near Odell. We’re also releasing a limited-edition sister brew called Rainier Kriek, which used Rainiers instead, also from my trees. Bings and Rainiers are both great dessert cherries, with Bings having a very deep red color and the Rainiers being a yellow/orange cherry, sweeter on the palate and more subtle in its richness compared to the Bings.
The base for our Krieks is a blend of three batches of a strong golden-colored beer, each fermented with a different yeast: our house ale yeast, which is of Belgian origin; our house Kölsch yeast; and the notorious wild yeast Brettanomyces. We’ve used Brettanomyces before, in the Red Devil, the IRB and in last year’s Devil’s Kriek. “Brett” contribues subtle fruitiness and barnyard character (think of smells in an old barn on a cold day) at low-level intensity and a horse blanket character (think of smells in a horse barn on a very hot day) at high intensity. Brett is also a component of many spontaneously-fermented French wines, as has legions of both fans and detractors in the winemaking world.
Devil’s Kriek was held on the cherries for 9 months, then transferred and stored cool at 34F for the remaining 3 months. The Rainier Kriek sat on cherries for the entire 12 month process at cellar temperatures ranging from 50F to 75F. The warmer ferment on the fruit allowed the Brett to assert itself more fully, driving the acidity lower and kicking out a stronger wild-yeast character. We brewed 20 barrels of Devil’s Kriek in a regular fermenter, along with 3 barrels of Rainier Kriek in a mobile mini-fermenter that was originally in service as a yeast propagation tank at Widmer.
I find the Devil’s Kriek to be more subtle and refined than the 2008 version. There was definitely more inky color and yeast character in the 2008; here in the 2009 release, the Bings threw less color but more cherry flavor. The beer comes across much more similar to a Pinot Noir than, say, a Bordeaux. — more elegant, without the big tart funky overtones of last year’s Kriek.
Meanwhile, the Ranier Kriek is plenty funky. Not as big as Cantillon perhaps, but the Rainier flavor really carries through, both in terms of the yellow/orange sunset hue and in the more subtle cherry notes. If the Bing version is more wine-like in approachability, the Rainier version is more typically assertive in the fashion of classic Belgian sours. As such, it’s not for everyone. But it’s OK if our beers aren’t for everyone.
At the brewery and at the Puckerfest at Belmont Station, we will serve the two versions of the beers with some just-picked cherries from the 2009 crop. It’s fun to taste the beers with their cherries and draw comparisons between the fresh fruit components and what they may have contributed to the final beer.
Please come by the Biercafe at the Station tonight or our Taproom in Hood River, have a glass and tell us what you think. This year’s Krieks will only be available at the Taproom and at some special events (like Puckerfest) throughout the year. The good news is that we should have Devil’s Kriek continuously on tap for the rest of 2009, and probably longer.
Our intent now and forever is to brew some form of Kriek annually at harvest time with cherries from my place, age the beer a full year, and serve the final result with the cherry crop that goes into the next year’s batch.