This article was originally written in June 2007 for the food & drink website Taste T.O., and republished here in October 2011 (but back-dated to match the original publication date) after Taste T.O. was shut down and taken offline.
While I’m usually inclined to reach for a nice dry Pilsner or a hoppy Pale Ale when the weather gets warmer, I can understand the increased popularity of fruit beers in the summer months. Their fresh and lively flavours are a reminder of the warm weather harvest, and the often complex combination of sweetness and tartness that is found in many better quality fruit beers can be quite refreshing on a hot day.
So it makes sense that the folks at Mill Street would choose to make a cherry beer as the first summer seasonal at their brewpub. (Although I suppose the fact that they had a raspberry beer available during the early spring sort of ruins the “summer = fruit beer” angle I’m playing up here, doesn’t it? Damn.)
I’d been looking forward to this beer since my first visit to the pub when I saw it listed as a Kriek in the rotating seasonals section of the beer menu. Traditionally, Kriek is a variation on the Belgian Lambic style, with sour cherries added during fermentation. The result is a lip-smackingly tart beer that is one of my favourite styles, especially in the summer, and I was really curious to try a local take on it.
Unfortunately, when I stopped by the pub last week to give it a try, I discovered that what they ended up producing isn’t a Kriek at all, but rather a cherry-laced version of a fairly standard UK-style ale.
Once I got over my initial disappointment, though, I found it to be a fairly nice quaff. It has a distinct reddish tinge to the colour and a fairly still body with very little head. The aroma and flavour are both sweet, but not cloying, with a good balance of slightly fruity malt and fresh cherry. Some mellow hops come though in the finish – enough to be briefly noticeable, but not enough to seriously interfere with the primary malt and cherry characteristics.
I guess I’ll have to wait impatiently for Liefmans Kriek to hit LCBO shelves later this summer so I can get my sour fruit beer fix. But in the meantime, the Mill Street Cherry Beer is a pleasant diversion that I’ll be happy to try again during any further visits I may make to the Distillery District this summer.