Although there are only a few dozens of kriek beers out there, the difference in flavor between them is enormous. Some of them are extremely sour, while others are as sweet as cherry juice. Before we get to the actual test, we can already roughly categorize the kriek beers in three categories: old kriek, classic kriek and ‘extreme’ kriek.
Old Kriek (sour)
Old kriek (usually referred to with the Flemish term ‘oude kriek’) is the sourest type of kriek. This is the kind that is very popular abroad, mainly in the USA. The name old kriek does not refer to the age of the beer, but to the process that is used to produce it. This beer is created by adding real cherries to lambic beer. Because the lambic is sour, the cherries are sour and there are no sweeteners added, this results in a very sour beer. This beer can be kept in the cellar for up to twenty years.
Until a few decades ago, this was the only way kriek was made. Back in the days, it was not uncommon to receive two lumps of sugar and a small masher with your kriek, so that you could make a bit less sour. Back then, kriek was only a regional beer, which was drunken mainly in Brussels and in the region to the West and Southwest of Belgium’s capital. This old style kriek has an alcohol content which varies from 5% to around 8%, and is quickly growing in popularity lately. The most famous beers in this category are 3 Fonteinen and Cantillon.
Classic Kriek (mildly sweet)
A few decades ago however, in order to save costs and to make the beers less sour, the brewers started to replace the real cherries by cherry juice. This juice was sweeter and cheaper than the real cherries, and it made the kriek beers accessible to a wider public. This type is referred to as ‘classic kriek’ or just ‘kriek’, because it has been the standard for the last few decades. The sourness of these beers depends on the amount of cherry juice and other sweeteners that the individual breweries use, but we can consider that they are generally slightly sweet. Examples of this type of beer are, amongst others, Mort Subite Kriek, Timmermans Kriek Lambic and belle-Vue Kriek. The alcohol content of this type is usually around 4-5%.
Extreme Kriek (very sweet)
A third type is the very sweet kriek. In the beginning of the 21st century, brewers noticed that there was a demand for an even sweeter beer. They started creating beers with even more cherry juice and more sweeteners, which resulted in very sweet beers with an alcohol content of around 3-4%. These beers have names like Kriek Max, kriek Xtreme or kriek Extra.
But now the ultimate kriek test. Because there are still big differences in sourness within those categories, and because some breweries have beers with similar names in each of these categories, we have tested the 20 best known kriek beers for you and classified them according to their sourness. Each beer received a score between 1 (extremely sour) to 10 (extremely sweet).
This test is not a scientific acidity test, it is merely based on the taste buds of some of my friends and me, but it should give you a pretty good indication on the sourness or sweetness of each beer. Another important remark is that the flavor of the old krieks tends to evolve once they get older. All beers that we tested here were between 1 and 2 years old, if we had taken older beer the results might have been slightly different.