Article by Simonmattia Riva, Biersommelier
One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste (Goethe)
Cherries and their cousins - black cherries, sour cherries, tart cherries and marasca cherries - are among the most beloved and coveted fruits at all ages: red, pulpy, a delicious mix of sweetness and acidity, you can never have enough of them. The delicious drupes of prunus cerasus and its siblings also have a symbolic value linked to the beginning of summer and its promises of happiness and passion, of long sunny days to be enjoyed to the full, just as the flesh of a cherry is sucked down to the stone.
Interestingly, cherries are one of the fruits that better fit beer recipes and it is not a coincidence that their use goes back to ancient times. In recent centuries, it is Belgium that boasts the longest and richest tradition of kriekenbier made with sour cherries (kriek in Flemish), a particularly sour variety found between Brabant and Flanders, as well as in the Langhe region, right around Piozzo.
For a brewer like Teo Musso, who is profoundly rooted in his land and has been greatly influenced by the Belgian beer culture in his training, giving the color and aromas of local sour cherries to one of his beers was probably inevitable. But, as we know, fortuitous chance often gives a helping hand.
It so happened that in 2005 Lorenzo Dabove, aka Kuaska, the putative father of all Italian beer tasters, told Teo he was going to host a workshop on kriekenbier at the Great British Beer Festival of London, and added: “such a shame you do not make one”.
The gauntlet was immediately picked up in the Musso's house: mother Maria, to whom the beer is dedicated, placed her pot in the courtyard of Piozzo and boiled kilos of sour cherries that would give their color and scents to Wayan, the spicy and lively Saison by Baladin.
With its cherry red shellac covering the top of the bottle and the red frame around the label, where mother Maria is depicted in the act of cooking fruits, Mama Kriek is one of the few Speciali di Baladin.
Once the cork is removed and Mama Kriek is poured in a tulip glass at about 10° C (50° F) - the best temperature to appreciate its freshness and aromatic richness - it looks very hazy, as it is not filtered, and because of the significant amount of sour cherry pulp it contains (18.5%). It has an evocative cherry color with pinkish hues which are also found in the fine and evanescent head.
The first scents released from the glass are those of cherry, black cherry and strawberry, with a touch of citrus zest, especially green lemon and bergamot. After a few seconds, we feel a distinct and fresh spicy character with coriander and white pepper which bring out, in the background, the underlying Saison.
A few minutes in the glass and the slightly higher temperature brings out a fresh winy note, reminiscent of some rose wines, as well as a distinctive aroma of skinned almond, followed by warmer spicy notes with hints of nutmeg and faint balsamic scents of basil.
When sipped, the beer reveals a subtle but perceptible carbonation and a very slender body, in line with the Saison style. The malts remain in the background without taking center stage. The sweet component, that is so central in other Baladin beers, is ephemeral and characterized by fresh scents of black cherry and strawberry.
The acidulous freshness that hits the sides of the tongue is delicate, yet well perceivable and is the signature characteristic of this beer. It harmoniously blends with citrus notes felt on the mid-palate, with flavors of green lemon zest and pink grapefruit pulp. The result is a pleasing duet with a clear hint of almond.
The finish is dry and clean, with a tenuous but perceptible bitterness that, once again, has notes of pink grapefruit and a lively peppery touch, giving a pleasant shock at the end of the sip. Against a very delicate vinous background, hints of almond come back in the aftertaste, along with the deepest essence of black cherry: the taste you can still feel sucking on the stone after eating the fruit.