Long before a perfectly sculpted beard juiced a grapefruit into a bog standard IPA, fruited beer was a thing. One of the places in which it was most definitely a thing is the Payottenland in Belgium.
Raspberries and cherries are the most traditional lambic additions and the crowning bottle in the cupboard for some time has been Drie Fonteinen's Intense Red. This is a particularly young lambic with cherries and boy does it shine.
It pours clear as crystal with a vibrant pink/purple head that dies near instantly. Thereafter it's a beautiful expression of kriek; pure, fresh fruit with the perfect balance of acidity and soft sweetness. There's a cherry cola thing that opens for the ripe tartness that acts as an enhancement of the usual cherry sherbert stuff. It's gorgeous and vinous without any wood character or maturity, pushing the fruit to the fore above all else.
A different, more conventional kind of kriek comes in the form of Oud Beersel's Oude Kriek Vieille. It's clear and dark red and produces a burst of sour cherry right from the beginning. There are shades of almondy depth in behind, giving a weirdly filling impression of tart cherry marzipan. This particular bottle was a good deal older than one I had at Christmas last and that satisfying depth and weight is something the younger bottle lacked. Apple skin tannins mop up the finish, adding points for drinkability that may have been lost amid the complexity.
Contrary to what I would expect with a fruited beer, this one seemed better for having lay about for five years, where the fresh bottle (not on the blog) was an admittedly fruitier but ultimately more pedestrian affair.
Things get wyrd again with Hannssens Experimental Raspberry Lambic, though truth be told I'm not exactly sure what's supposed to be experimental about it. Perhaps it is simply the decision not to call it a framboise.
In any case, it is still as death and super sour, its tawnied-pink appearance looking - and perhaps smelling - more like a raspberry vinaigrette than anything else. Thankfully the fruit on the palate is actually quite clean and fresh-tasting, almost fun, before an acid bath spoilsport takes away any of the refreshing joy I usually find in good lambic. It's worth dabbling in, if only for the one, but the sheer sour power makes it a bit too much like hard work for my liking.
No fruit goes into Blossomgueuze, second in a series of weird lambics made by Lindemans. The producers have presumably saved the elderberries for jam and instead used elderflower to flavour this geuze. It pours surprisingly clear in the burnished gold tones of filtered Czech lager. Add to that a hint of a skunky nose and you have a wobble start indeed. However, all of this is forgotten with an intense sour attack of mouth-filling, citric acid-laden wheat. There are flowery elements, but not in any overtly elderflowery sort of way; if I hadn't been told there was elderflower in it, I would certainly not have guessed. This is almost a relief, as I had worried about dodgy over-flavourings before I opened the bottle. Most surprising of all is a note of juicy, tart mango that comes from nowhere into the finish and aftertaste, combining wonderfully with the lemon acidity of the beer and leaving you with the impression of having just had some fresh tropical and citrus fruit.
Fresh, bright, delicious; this is refreshing, drinkable and eminently fun lambic, and even if the elderflower didn't assert itself as elderflower, in the end Lindemans have just made a fantastic geuze.