Review Date 10/1/2011
For the longest time, I doubted whether I would ever get to try any of the three beers in the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection. These specialty beers, launched in 2009, were only offered at the brewery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, after all, and sadly I just don’t get up that way so much these days. Hence my surprise when, while shopping at Haxton’s Liquors in Warwick, Rhode Island, I spied a bottle of Samuel Adams American Kriek on the shelf. American Kriek is one of the three beers in the Barrel Room Collection, so I immediately snapped one up and placed it in my shopping cart.
Using the name ‘Kriek” (albeit with an “American” qualifier) does not seem to have landed Boston beer in the same kind of hot water they got in when they launched Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic back in 1990. I was around and very active as a beer enthusiast in those days, and I can tell you that the over the top beer geeks were screaming about the name.
Why? Lambic, you see, true Lambic, is a Belgian-style beer that can only be fermented spontaneously in the Zenne River Valley of Belgium. Beer geeks didn’t like Boston Beer using the name, but it was clear to all involved where the beer was made: here in the U.S. I knew enough that I was never going to confuse Cranberry Lambic with a true Belgian example, so this never bothered me. It seemed more of a tribute to me.
“Kriek” is a Lambic variant that is brewed with fresh cherries, so I imagine that all those beer geeks from the nineties are probably off screaming again. Let them. My advice is to just ignore all that, and enjoy this beer. You’ll do yourself a disservice if you miss out on it.
Boston Beer says this about the cherries they use in American Kriek:
“The intense black cherry character in this beer comes from Balaton®* cherries, which were discovered in Hungary and are now grown in Michigan. These special cherries are prized for their depth of flavor. The tartness from the cherries is balanced by a rich, malty character with toasted oak notes added from the barrel aging.
*Balaton® is a registered trademark of Michigan State University, Michigan”
American Kriek is sold in nifty barrel shaped 750 ML corked bottles. I paid $9.99 for mine which seems reasonable. The beer has 7% alcohol by volume, a bit stronger than most but not as strong as many of the specialty beers hitting store shelves today. The beer is made with Copeland, Metcalf, Munich, Caramel, Harrington, and Special B malts along with the cherries. It’s hopped with Hallertaus, though lightly. The beer is fermented with a Belgian yeast strain and aged on the cherries in oak barrels.
Samuel Adams American Kriek pours to a reddish brown color with a thick, silky-smooth creamy pink head and an appetizing dark cherry nose. Taking a sip, the beer is incredibly smooth and creamy up front, almost like sipping an ice cream float. Then the fruit hits: deep, dark, delicious black cherries that are slightly tart and almondy. They make it almost impossible to stop sipping this one, at least for me. A gentle hint of toasty oak underlines the fruit flavor, though it’s perhaps a little more subtle than I would like. The finish delivers more of that fruit and the tartness balances nicely. It’s amazing how dry the beer finishes.
Definitely not as sour as a classic kriek, though it does have a charming tartness. This is a very, very enjoyable fruit beer, one I will certainly buy again.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.