A Year of Beer 2009 #20 - Liefmans Cuvee and Fruit Beer
Another part of our (hopefully) year-long video project, A Year of Beer. looking at the idea of beer and seasonality - how different styles of beer are more appropriate to different seasons, weathers, festivals and so on. There will also be a bit of beer and food matching thrown in because, hell, we love to eat as much as we love to drink.
This week: Liefmans Cuvee and Fruit Beer
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Liefmans Cuvee and Fruit Beer
OK, I realise that I've blogged these beers already, but things have changed at Liefmans.
Having gone into and emerged from administration, purchased by Duvel-Moortgat, and relaunched onto the high seas of beer, things were always going to be bit different for Liefmans, and for the beers too. The range has been slightly streamlined (certainly in the export market, at any rate) and so we now have Liefmans Kriek rebranded as Liefmans Cuvee (6%abv), and a generic low(ish) alcohol (4.1%abv) sweetened fruit beer with the iconic name on it.
I often get asked why I don't review beers that I don't like. Well, there are lots of reasons, but basically, life's too short for bad beer. However, here, I'm reviewing a beer that I'm really not bothered about. It's OK, but no better. It's a confected, artificially sweetened piece of pink fluff. I've tried much worse beers, but I'll never say anything about them. Liefmans Generic Fruit Beer is aimed at a certain sector of the market, and I'm sure it will do OK there, but it's not a sector of the market that I'm interested in.
Tim Webb, the Belgian beer writer (that's to say, he's an English beer writer, but he specialises in Belgian beer) has said that people don't get interested in artisan lambics by drinking sweetened fruit beers. Up until now, I haven't agreed with him, but now I concede that he might have a point.
Liefmans Cuvee is a proper beer, with grown up flavours and aromas. It has body, it has bite, it has heritage, and it goes well with chocolate. There, a whole host of reasons to like it. The cherries lend a fruity tartness, the base beer has a sour, acetic twang to it, and it's pretty much the same as it ever was. To me, it seems a little tarter, a little less fruity than the last releases of Liefmans Kriek, and had I had the presence of mind to fetch a bottle from the cellar, I could have done a comparative tasting.
But the comparison here is between a commercial fruit beer, made from juice and sweetened with sugar and saccharine, and an artisan product, a centuries old tradition, a complex brown ale fermented with whole fruit. It isn't much of a contest really, and it feels almost perverse to draw a comparison between the two. If it adds value to the Liefmans brand, great, but I'm not sure it does.
But it's all about the beer in the glass. One was good, one was less so. We can't go back to what was, so let's move forward and enjoy what we are left with.