Brew Review

Brewed For Battle: Fruit Lambics

At what point does one elevate from merely drinking beer to being a full-on beer snob? Answer: when you feel compelled to tell other people what to drink. And the inevitable result of this peculiar ailment is the beer argument.

In the spirit of all great beer-related discussions, we present Brewed For Battle; a new series of Chow Bella blog posts that pits a selection of brews from a given style up against each other and lets the taste buds of one layman battle them out. Multiple beers go in. One beer comes out the victor.

This week's battle: Fruit Lambics

He said beer, she said wine -- or vice versa -- and on Valentine's Day, we always tend to cede to our significant others' tastes. These sweet, tart brews can bridge the gap between wine and beer.

Indigenous to the Senne Valley of Belgium, lambics stem from a farmhouse brewing tradition several hundred years old. These brews are spontaneously fermented -- meaning pots containing the wort are left outside and uncovered, allowing whatever critters happen to be flying by on a passing breeze to ferment the beer. These wild yeast give lambics their distinct tartness. Most Belgian brewers also utilize aged hops, which add antibacterial properties to the beer, rather than bitterness or flavor.

In the case of fruit lambics, whole fruits are traditionally added after halfway through fermentation to add sweetness and new dimensions of flavor. Common additions include kriek (cherries), framboise (raspberries), peche (peach) and cassis (black currant), all producing subtle to intense fruit characters, depending on the brewer.

Some breweries opt to use fruit or sugar syrups rather than whole fruits, producing nontraditional -- and cloyingly sweet -- versions of the style.

Zach's Pick: Oud Beersel Framboise Brouwerij Oud Beersel in Belgium makes a lambic with cherries that's great. Their framboise isn't quite up to those standards, but it's still decent. Whole, fresh raspberries are added to the still-fermenting lambic at a rate of 250 grams per liter, sparking a secondary fermentation that adds fruity complexity. At 6 percent ABV, it's on the high end of lambic alcohol percentage, but the distinct dry and tart flavors mask it nicely.

Jonathan's Pick: Lindemans Framboise For me (and I'm guessing several of you) Lindeman's Framboise is quintessential lambic. It's the one people tend to know about - and with good reason. It's delicious. There is a sugary sweet here that overpowers the inherit sourness of a good lambic. Sounds like a bad thing, right? Put it in your mouth and see if you feel the same way. There's not much in the way of alcohol, though. If you're planning to get smashed on Framboise, you might have to settle for a full stomach and a sugar high instead.

Shannon's Pick: Van Honsenbrouck St. Louis Kriek Castle Brewery St. Louis Kriek - This lambic is the bees knees. Being female makes it acceptable for me to appreciate the finer things in life such as a good lambic. Go ahead and make your comments but it's true. Lindeman's Framboise has always been my go to when I am feeling extremely girl-y and need to drink something that could be an ice cream topping, but from now on I think I will be reaching for the St. Louis Kriek. Castle Brewery has made me a Kriek fan. No more raspberries for this girl! The sweet taste of cherry pie with notes of honey complimented by the light malt and just the right amount of carbonation left me longing for more. As in, I was pissed that I had to share the bottle we had with several other people. At 3.5% ABV it also gives you a little more bang for buck!

The Layman's Choice: This week's layman was none other than New Times Managing Editor Amy Silverman. Her pick? Shine the spotlight on the Kriek.

"Oud Beersel Framboise tastes like old yogurt or fruit juice that's been left out too long. I'd compare it to cough syrup or a $2 bottle of wine. St. Louis Kriek reminds me of candy cough drops or cherry Now and Later. There's more candy here than fermented baby juice. Lindeman's is my favorite. I've had it before, and it's a total pussy drink. But it reminds me of post-college, and it's what I associate with lambic."