- Mike Riedel
Beer is beer. However, in today's vastly competitive world of adult beverages, brewers often have to look beyond beer to stay relevant in markets that are full of options. A popular trend right now is "mimicking beers"—brews that use adjuncts to duplicate pastries, desserts and other confections through the use of lactose (milk sugar) to add a dairy sweetness to many styles. Here are a couple of local examples that do a great job of becoming something they are not.
Shades Brewing Cherry Pie Kveik: Even the appearance of this beer makes you think of cherry pie; the fuchsia and red hues from cherry purée give this hazy ale a glowing presentation. Cherry and molasses are the first things to pop out of the nose, plus notes of vanilla swirl, providing a bit of whipped cream to confuse the senses. Finally, you get to throw it back, and the cherry hits you right out of the gate. You can tell there's a lot of stone fruit sweetness here, but it's held at bay by base beer's use of Kveik yeast. The yeast adds a clean tartness that balances the candy aspects, creating a flavor that's quite palatable for those who aren't big on sweets. Pie is much more than the filling; the crust plays a big part in the overall flavor experience. The brewers at Shades decided to go with the graham cracker crust approach, adding a massive amount of the sugary American cracker. Vanilla topping is also simulated with the addition of lactic sugars into the mix. The lactose not only adds balance to this 6.5% ale, but also tartness that provides body to keep it from being more than a liquid experience
Overall: The use of purée, not juice, gives the beer an authentic pie taste. I'm also not sure if this beer would work if it didn't have the benefit of the Kviek yeast to add balance. Cherry pie isn't one of my personal favorites, but there's no denying that this beer hits all of the right beats in trying to become something it seems like it couldn't possibly be.
Kiitos Brewing Fruit Milkshake: This is another mind-bender of a beer, looking to smoothie shops for its influence. This has muddled tones of various purple-hued berries that give it a nice glow. It's full of blackberry, pomegranate and possibly strawberry aromas. Vanilla and lactose prop up the berries, rounding them out and giving them fullness. The taste starts with pomegranate and a tiny bit of blueberry, while the vanilla sweetness from the lactose removes some of the edge almost immediately. I don't think there's rhubarb in here, but I definitely sense that type of tartness. Toward the end, lemon starts to take hold, a likely remnant from the beer's sour base. The lactose here isn't overused, still allowing for the berry flavors to stand out. The finish has a bit of sweetness that coats the mouth in an unobtrusive, but pleasant, way.
Overall: This beer seems to capture the smoothie experience quite well. It's enjoyable and easy to drink, with well-hidden 5.0% alcohol and not too much sweetness. I really enjoyed the berry aspects that manage to keep me interested.
Normally, beers are a fairly vegan-friendly alcoholic option. The lactose additions to these beers take them off the table for many of you, so keep that in mind when choosing. Kiitos' Berry Milkshake is in wide distribution and should be available in most stores, while Shades' Cherry Pie Kveik is at the brewery and various pubs around the area. As always, cheers!