Drie Fonteinen – Schaerbeekse Kriek

From the Archives – 2012
Love that Lambic

We both love Lambics, in fact while we were visiting Belgium a few of years ago we drank a huge variety of them. Aside from the fact that they were so good, we felt that we had to imbibe as there were many Lambics that we simply couldn’t buy anywhere else.  Certainly not in Texas, where the TABC run the show with their bizarre regulations which seem to favour only the giant breweries. Because of the TABC and its weird quirks, some of the more esoteric lambics (and particularly Schaerbeekse Kriek) can be difficult to find.

Lambics are beers made with spontaneous fermentation, rather than by the addition of  yeast they use yeasts occurring naturally in the air, the most common being Brettanomyces bruxellensis. They are so called Sour Beers, which can be an acquired taste, but one definitely worth acquiring! To quote Michael Jackson (The beer expert, not the inventor of Jesus Juice): “The lambic family are not everybody’s glass of beer, but no one with a keen interest in alcoholic drink would find them anything less than fascinating. In their ‘wildness’ and unpredictability, these are exciting brews. At their best, they are the meeting point between beer and wine. At their worst, they offer a taste of history” (From The Great Beers of Belgium, 1991).

I personally had my lambic epiphany with Oude Lambiek, by Geuze Stekerij De Cam. We could only find it in  ‘t Brugse Beertje in Brugge at the time, so had to go there more than once, just for one more, I promise, no really.

Lambics can be made more accessible by adding fruit, no fruit more iconic than the Belgian Kriek which is a type of cherry. One of the beers we particularly enjoyed in this vein, was an aged kriek lambic by the Drie Fonteinen Brouwerij (Three Fountains Brewery).

Oude Kriek?

The Oude Kriek leaps out at you as an excellent, very fruity lambic. Not surprisingly it gets 5 out of 5 stars in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide – Belgium, so you can imagine how pleased I was when Angela arrived back from her trip to Portland with 2 large boxes of beer, one of which contained a Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek. Or so we thought.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a rather special “Schaerbeekse Kriek” bottled on 28th April 2010. It also turns out that these particular cherries are quite rare, grown only in a small area of Belgium. In fact in 2009, Drie Fonteinen only produced 6000 bottles due to the scarcity of the cherries. The cherry is a wild variety, growing close to the brewery, but the trees are disappearing. This, plus the fact that the brewery relies on its neighbours to provide them with the cherries, results in very limited production runs.

Kriek
Schaerbeekse Kriek

In general, its is becoming harder to source kriek cherries, which is why some brewers are looking further afield for them, some as far as Poland. These cherries, while excellent for Lambics, cannot bear the name “Schaerbeekse”, because they are not from Schaerbeek, however, the good news is that Brouwerij Boon, has plans to plant an orchard of these wild, tart cherries, with hopefully more breweries following suit. Perhaps soon we may see a revival of beers using this unique cherry.

Drinking and pairing notes

On the nose, the first thing that hit me is a very dry champagne note, followed by sour cherry with a nice lambic funk. The beer itself is very sour, somewhat mellowed by the almost 3 years of aging. The cherries add to the sourness, but bring with them a complexity that is magnificent. Shame we only had one bottle!

Lambic’s pair well with shellfish and with rich, dark chocolates, but they also go surprisingly well with more robust dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, try them with these Steen’s syrup braised-pork turnovers.

The Trip

It was always going to be difficult. Beaker, the larger of our two cats has never been socialised. He was completely feral when we rescued him from the mean streets of Houston, and a girl. We had thought that he was about 3 months old, but after a week or two of decent, regular food we realised that 1) he was a boy and 2) that he was about 6 months old. And kitty puberty was upon him. Poor thing, that’s a lot to deal with. Changing your address, sex, and leaving kitten-hood all over the space of a couple of weeks can’t be easy.

He’s barely even sociable, At least not with others. He’s friendly enough with us (read “with Angela”). A bit wary, but friendly. That’s not to say that he is mean or violent. He isn’t, he’s a total sweetheart, one of the nicest cats I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. He’s just scared of everything and everyone, and has exceptional hiding skills. Right now he’s inside the lower part of our bed in the hotel. Inside it. Apparently there was a rip on the underside, a small one but large enough for him to drag his big cat arse into. It’s going to be a joy trying to get him into his carrier when we leave for our apartment next week. We are looking for somewhere that sells duct-tape for this very reason. We aren’t going to hog-tie him, in case you are concerned, just try to tape up that particular avenue of escape.

Since he’s so difficult to catch – ex-feral cats never lose their edge, they can dodge, weave and jump like pro rugby players – we actually had to use the services of a mobile pet clinic since catching him ourselves has always proved to be nigh on impossible. The vet had to come out several times in order to vaccinate and chip him. The first time was a failure – Beaker, despite his size, leapt to a hiding place that we thought was out of reach. He’s good at that as I mentioned above. The vets brought a net with them the second time they came, and caught him that way. Very undignified it was too, and Beaker let them know of his displeasure by peeing. Who knew the kitty bladder was so capacious? The life of a vet clearly isn’t all private jets and glamour.

They came the morning that we were due to fly out to catch and put him in his carrier. Mission accomplished, so Beaker (and his more sensible sister Squee) were ready for their epic journey across the Atlantic. Our friend Matt had kindly volunteered to drive us to the airport, and we loaded everything up, included two rather quiet cats and headed out.

I was expecting them to be able to stay in their carriers through security, but that was not to be. While the TSA folks manning the security x-ray stations were really nice, their supervisor was an officious, humourless, ….I’ll stop there. We had to take the kitties in their carriers into a small room where they had to be taken out while the carriers were scanned. Angela went first with Squee, thankfully this was uneventful, since Squee is a level headed little thing. I went in with Beaker, and two very rotund security guards. One of them picked up a broom as a weapon. I’m not kidding. I told him in no uncertain terms that if he attempted to use that on Beaker great unpleasantness would ensue. I know you aren’t supposed to threaten security personnel, but you don’t hit animals with brooms either. Something about my demeanour, probably brought on by the fact that I was convinced I was about to be pissed on and bitten by a very scared Beaker, and so probably looked rather grim and very determined, made him put down the broom. I managed to get Beaker out of the carrier and kept him close to me while they took his carrier to be scanned. They then swabbed him and my hands for explosives. All negative of course. Beaker was eager to get back in his carrier, so all in all, getting him through security was not as bad as we had anticipated. The officious, unfriendly ICE supervisor made it a lot more unpleasant than it needed to be however.

The flight to Frankfurt was uneventful. I like flights, any flight to be uneventful. It’s better that way. When we arrived, again we had to take the kitties to a small room where they could be taken out of their carriers and the carriers taken away to be scanned. I was less nervous this time, made so in no small part by the security agent. Rather than threaten to hit the cats with a broom, the lady agent was nice, had cats of her own, and was eager to hug our cats while their carriers were examined. Beaker wasn’t particularly eager to be hugged, but he didn’t kick up a fuss. The agent was also Portuguese, and when she realised where we were moving to, became very friendly indeed. What a difference from our experience in Houston. Security checks are very important, but there really isn’t any need to be dickish about them.

It was snowing when we arrived in Frankfurt, and as we waited at the gate for our flight to be called, we could hear succesive announcements of cancellations over the intercom. Oh dear.

Interesting article in The Independent on the resurgence of Gin in the UK

“It ruined mothers (and fathers) and was an early harbinger of binge-drinking Britain before falling out of favour – and flavour. But now gin is back, thanks to a crop of aromatic new concoctions fuelling the biggest gin craze since the days of William Hogarth.”

The rise and rise of Mother’s Ruin

Ginger Witch

This may be a boozy day. Here’s another cocktail that seems to work well.

Add lemon (in our case meyer lemon) simple syrup to a tall glass. Add ice. Add 1/2 a measure of Strega and half a measure of Domaine de Canton. Add a full measure of Hendrick’s Gin. Fill the glass with soda water and add a splash of bitters – in this case I used Fee Brothers’ – Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters. Blood orange or lemon bitters would work well too. Stir, add a slice of lemon to the rim of the glass and enjoy!

 

Lemony Snicket

A nice quick and easy cocktail.

Our Meyer Lemon tree has gone mad. Last year it produced just one lemon, this year it has gone ape. We’ve picked about 30 lemons and there are still a good number to go – at least another 30. The Meyer lemon, in case you’ve never tried one, is sort of a cross between a lemon and a mandarin – less sour than a lemon, with a deeper flavour.

Coming up with recipes is not hard – so far we have made Meyer-lemon bitters – they’ll be ready by Christmas, a Lemon marangue  pie, which was exceptional because of the Meyers. We’ve also made a simple syrup with them, which makes some of the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted – simply pour a bit of the syrup in a tall glass, add ice and soda-water and Bob is your proverbial uncle. Delicious.

As today s the first day of my vacation, I decided that we probably needed a cocktail, there being a “D” in the day and all. I decided to use the simple syrup as a base. First made it without the Grand Marnier, but it was missing a certain something. Oh Grand Marnier, you complete me, or at the very least, you complete this cocktail.

Take a tall glass, add meyer-lemon simple syrup – remember it’s very sweet, treat it a bit like the syrup drinks if yesteryear, and put about a centimetre or half an inch at the bottom of the glass. Add ice.

Add 1 measure of white rum (we used Treaty Oak Platinum Rum from Austin), and half a measure of Grand Marnier. Cointreau will also do, but remember that it is sweeter. Fill the glass with soda-water and add a splash or two of lemon bitter. Stir and serve.