Beer of the Week: Drie Fonteinen Intense Red
Belgian brewers tend to let their beer speak for itself. There's less of a fixation on squeezing beers into specific style headings. There are fewer descriptive puns such as "Hop Pocket" or "Hopopotamus." So, when a beloved brewer of traditional sour ales uses the word "intense" in the name of a brew, beer geeks tend to take notice.
Drie Fonteinen is widely considered one of the very finest producers of sour beer in the world. Its geuze and fruited sours are at the very top of the heap alongside Cantillon and a handful of other Belgian brewers and blenders. Drie Fonteinen's Oude Kriek, a lambic with cherries, is a prototype of the style that's been available in the Bay Area for many years.
Intense Red, a new version of the kriek, was released for the first time earlier this year at the Toer de Gueze, a tour of Belgian sour beer producers that should be on every aficionado's bucket list. While the word "intense" in the context of lambic-based beers usually suggests an unusually bracing acidity, this brew is quite the opposite. By upping the quantity of cherries to a concentration of 40%, this beer became "intensely" fruity, which actually offsets some of the acidic character.
The beer pours deep red with a pink head. Aromas of sweet and sour cherry immediately leap from the glass, enveloped in the traditionally funky, earthy embrace of a spontaneously fermented "wild" beer. Not as effervescent and dry as its traditional kriek counterpart, Intense Red straddles the line between beer, wine, and cherry liqueur. This complex, sweet and sour fruit-bomb is begging for a stinky cheese pairing, or perhaps a jubilee made with brandied cherries (if you're feeling particularly indulgent). Intense Red is currently on the shelf at better beer stores throughout the Bay Area.