Quick tasting notes: Brouwerij Verhaeghe Echte Kriek

There comes a moment in every young beer drinker’s life when he either discovers the great world of tastes beyond Miller Genuine Draft or forever languishes in longneck hell. For me, there were several such moments in Charlottesville—my first Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout at the late lamented Kafkafé, drinking Hefeweizen in the Court Square Tavern—but my first fruit lambic didn’t make too much of an impression. I don’t remember whether I was in school or already in Northern Virginia, but I remember my friend John Liepold raving about Lindeman’s Framboise and Kriek. I have to say that my first lambic didn’t make that much of an impression. Sweet like soda pop was my first and probably only thought.

I’ve learned a few things since then about beer. For one thing, lambic is a fascinating drink with or without fruit. A true lambic is fermented in open air tuns, and naturally occurring yeast strains in the environment contribute tremendous complexity and depth of taste. Some lambics, such as the wonderful “old red” Rodenbach of Flanders, develop a piquantly sour taste that is simultaneously challenging and refreshing. And adding real fruit to a lambic (instead of the extracts rumored to be used in many of the more outlandish beers from Lindeman, including the Cassis and Banana flavors) contributes natural sweetness and color and deepens the flavor.

Knowing all this, I was thrilled to see that one of my most recent shipments from the RealBeer Club included Brouwerij Verhaeghe’s Echte Kriek. The echte means “real,” and this is indeed the real thing, intense sour lambic flavored with big handfuls of cherries. The color is a reddish brown with no suspicious hints of gold; the mouthfeel is dry, the nose is aromatic without being cloying. The taste… sour cherries but more complex, the classic lambic “sour ale” taste hitting the palate just after the first flavor of cherries. There isn’t a lot of depth of flavor beyond the combination of sweetish cherries and sour-ish beer, but my God, what else could you want? Highly recommended.

Dog show

Lisa and I went to a dog show in Puyallup on Friday night. We thought, What better way to find a breeder who could tell us about how to get a Bichon Frisé puppy? Well, apparently the right answer was, “Lots of better ways.”

But not to get too far ahead of the story. The dog show was being held in the Puyallup fair grounds, about thirty miles south of where we live, to the east of SeaTac. This means that on a Friday afternoon at 4 pm, it was about seventy minutes away. We got there at about 5:45. The papers we had said the show, which included the meeting of the Puget Sound Bichon Frisé club, would go until 10 pm. Plenty of time, we thought.

We walked into the first building, which looked like a preparatory area—dogs in crates, on grooming tables, being watched by twelve-year-old kids—but with no apparent breeders in site and only a small crowd in the far end of the building. We saw another building to the right and walked through. Immediately we were hit with a miasma of dog. More dog crates and pens, stalls selling liver treats and grooming implements—all shuttered. We looked at each other and said, “Uh-oh.” Then we saw chairs at the far end of the next room set up in a ring and heard an announcer’s voice. Finally, I thought, we’ve found it. And a Bichon was on the judging table. We drew closer and realized that this was a general judging of “non-sporting” breeds, not the Bichon Frisé club judging. And there were only about fifty people there. The ones who weren’t handlers in the ring were waiting for their turn to go on. We watched the Bichon take third place and talked to the lady at the AKC desk, only to find out that the Bichon club was meeting in the building we had first been in. We walked back to find most everyone cleared out.

We went away without having talked to a breeder. But we have some addresses and phone numbers, and we’ll press ahead.