Blend of organic ale, cherry juice and cellared ale. 5.1% ABV
Samuel Smith, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England
By Bill Lau
Posted September 27, 2015
I don’t know who first thought to add cherries to beer (certainly the Belgians have a long history of doing so – kriek lambic, anyone?), but they sure hit on something! When done well, the combination can be downright exquisite.
In the traditional method, whole fruit (or fruit juice) is added to the secondary fermentation, the yeast allowed to slowly consume the natural fruit sugars, and the beer extracts both flavor and color from the fruit. This takes some time and patience, and does introduce elements of variability to the beer-making process.
Nowadays, many fruit beers are made using what I consider shortcuts, primarily by adding fruit extract or flavoring to the finished beer. The profile of the beer can be controlled exactly this way, and the potential for introducing wild yeast or bacteria eliminated. What is lost, however, is the depth of flavor and stunning color obtained with the more time-consuming approach.
This cherry beer starts with an organic ale from the antique Melbourn Bros. (per the label and distributor, Merchant du Vin; All Saints’ per the Samuel Smith website – indicating a change in name, it would seem) Brewery in Stamford, England made using old-time methods and equipment, then blended with both cherry juice and a cellared ale at Samuel Smith’s (one of my favorite English breweries), where it is conditioned and bottled. The entire process includes multiple yeast strains and extended aging for added complexity.
For my money, the traditional method is worth the added time, risk, and cost. Decide for yourself, and let me know what you think if you’ve tried this beer. Cheers!
Appearance (5/5): Bright, cherry-red, crystal clear topped with a luxuriously dense, rocky & mousse-like head of pinkish-beige foam well over a finger’s width thick. Stunning. Leaves wide bands of foam behind.
Aroma (9/10): I got a nice blast of tart cherries with touch of almond upon pouring. Further investigation notes some wild yeast funkiness & complexity, earthy & rustic.
Palate (5/5): Smooth like liquid velvet, the dense foam adds a creaminess and substance to the medium body. The phrase “liquid sex” just popped into my head.
Taste (10/10): Tart pie cherries lead the way with marzipan following behind. There’s a light sweetness combining to produce an overall tart-sweet or sweet & sour effect. Beyond that, there are some hints of earthiness and complexity similar to wild yeast or extended exposure to wood microflora. Malt is subdued but lends a bready or biscuity base. Bittering is light, with the tart fruit and touch of wood providing the balance. This is right up there with New Glarus’ Wisconsin Belgian Red or a good kriek lambic, IMHO.
Overall (19.3/20): As George Takei (aka “Uncle George” to millions) would say, “Oh, myyy!” Tastes downright decadent & naughty. (I think they mislabled my bottle – I’m certain it should read “Orgasmic Cherry Ale”!) Offer this to someone who “hates beer” and see what kind of reaction you get.
Disclosure: The author has received no reimbursement or compensation for this article. All opinions and remarks are those of the author alone.