In December of last year, I was perusing the aisles at Coaltrain Liquor when I stumbled across the Samuel Adams Barrel Room series of bombers and selected a sample of all three of their offerings: the Kriek, the Stout, and the Belgian Triple. The next day, I found myself back at Coaltrain stocking up on the Kriek.
At the time, I had recently learned about aging beer and was eager to try it out for myself. It was that day in early December of 2011, that I bought and stored a beer for the first time. It has been a full year since then and I’m finally ready to sample my very own, aged American Kriek.
A Kriek is an old Belgian style of beer brewed with or fermented on cherries. The Samuel Adams American Kriek is a particular variation of this style, fermented on Batalon cherries for several months before aging in oak barrels. The Batalon cherry was originally discovered in Hungary, but is now widely grown in Michigan. A unique and powerfully flavored beer, the Kriek is a prime candidate for the home aging process.
It would be useless to taste the aged Kriek by itself. Although I love beer and keep track of my impressions as much as I can, attempting to remember the intricacies of a beer I tasted a year ago would be an exercise in futility. I searched a few local stores and finally found an un-aged American Kriek. I’ll now recount my experience tasting the new beer side-by-side with my aged Kriek – number 0821.
The experiment began as I poured four glasses, two for myself and two for a roommate. One aged. One new. For each of us.
Both poured a hazy cherry-red color (big surprise), with an off-white, cream-colored head. The nose of both the aged and the new Kriek were indistinguishable. Up to this point, the beers were identical. It was only when I began to sip them that their subtleties became apparent.
I first tried the new Kriek. It was full bodied and sweeter than I remembered from last December. A certain toasty flavor came through at the finish, hinting at the oak barrel fermenting that defines the Barrel Room Series.
After a few sips of the new beer, I excitedly switched to a glass of number 0821. Although both beers were practically identical in appearance and scent, my roommates and I were able to discern between the two on taste alone.
The aged beer tasted more mature, both physically and metaphorically. The cherry notes were more subdued. They were neither as prevalent nor as sweet as those in the new beer. The mouth-feel was more champagne-like with a bitter finish. The entire experience was shorter lived than that of the new Kriek. It was as if, after aging, the beer became comfortable and content in its bottle, no longer trying to impress the drinker with powerful malt and cherry flavors. Everything had become smoother and more reserved.
All this was quite a pleasant surprise. People hope that after a year of anticipation, their pet projects turn out as hoped. Luckily for me, I ended up liking the aged Kriek better than the new!
I hope that my experience will spur some of you to test out aging a beer on your own. Do some research and pick a beer that will age well, blending complex flavors rather than going stale like an old PBR. The experience is not only gratifying, but also a fantastic exercise in self-discipline.