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From our cellar: 3 vintage cherry beers

Putting an aged cherry stout, lambic and Flanders red to the test.
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WEB_20160912_Cherries_smallNew Glarus Cherry Stout 2012
Drinkers (in the Badger State at least) are probably familiar with New Glarus’ other cherry beer, Wisconsin Belgian Red. After four years, the Cherry Stout, brewed as a Thumbprint Series small release in 2012, shares more in common with Belgian Red than we expected. It pours a murky brown, like an uncarbonated Dr. Pepper, and most of the stout character has dropped from the aroma. In its place, huge black cherry cola, earthy fruit pit, milk chocolate and grenadine scents hint at a sweet sip to come. Malts have likewise dropped out of the flavor, leaving only a thread of dusty milk chocolate, like an old Hershey’s Kiss forgotten from Halloween. Carbonation levels are decent for a four-year-old beer, lifting cherry pie sweetness and slightly earthy cherry skin to the fore. If you have one of these bottles tucked away, don’t hesitate to open it now. Malts aren’t oxidizing in this beer and will likely only disappear, leaving not even milk chocolate to temper the sweet fruit onslaught.

The Lost Abbey Red Poppy 2009
We loved this Flanders red fresh (99 points‘ worth, in fact), but eight years is a long time for even the best beers to remain under wraps. The long wait has paid off though, turning what is, when new, a bracingly acidic and moisture-sucking sip into an elegant, food-friendly beer. If you’re drinking this with a candlelit dinner, there’s no need to turn the lights up: The beer’s hazy brown, flat appearance isn’t much to fuss over. Instead, lean in for a sniff and a swirl to unearth sherry notes, a touch of vanilla and some sweet balsamic. There’s an oaky, spicy red wine aroma at the edges that might be familiar to devoted tempranillo or syrah drinkers. On the tongue, red wine and oak dryness take charge, sometimes allowing a flash of balsamic to peek through the cranberry juicelike tartness. The body has thinned out a bit, but it doesn’t detract from the overall vinous impression of the beer. The only flavor we pined for was a bit more sweetness, but that wasn’t quite there in the fresh beer, either. This is drinking great now; crack it if you’ve got it.

Allagash Coolship Cerise 2011
Released at the tail end of 2011, this spontaneously fermented lambic-style beer was aged on Montmorency and Balaton cherries for six months in oak wine barrels. After fourish years in our cellar, it still looks lively, glowing a beautiful apricot color with champagne-sized bubbles. The aroma is the definition of farmhouse funk: Wet hay and thick sweat, even a touch of manure, will intrigue only the most die-hard funk fans. Cherry is an aromatic afterthought, contributing a nondescript berry sweetness that’s way in the background. The flavor isn’t as farmy as the nose suggests, instead layering dry oak, straw and cherry pit over mellow, midlevel lemony tartness. After a few sips, additional nuances express themselves in the form of peach fuzz and clean hay. Carbonation and acidic brightness have held up well in this beer, making it a “drink now” in our book; any longer and who knows how much farther that ultrafunky aroma could go.

 

 

 

Author
Kate Bernot is DRAFT’s beer editor. Reach her at kate.bernot[at]draftmag.com.

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