by James Beeson
With the exception of Belgium, and perhaps Germany, continental beer gets a pretty bad rap. Unfairly tarnished by the stain of euro-lager, beers from our European neighbours are frequently overlooked in favour of UK breweries or those on the other side of the Atlantic.
I think this is a crying shame, and I’ve teamed up with the folks at HonestBrew to try and do something about it. As part of a new series on their website, I’ll be taking a look at some of the finest brews the likes of Spain, Italy, Scandinavia and Ireland have to offer, and showing that European brewers can and should stand alongside the very best beers from around the world.
The first beer to be featured in our ‘From Europe with love’ series is from sunny Spain, but it has its roots in both Belgian and US beer culture. Edge Brewing was set up by two Americans, Alan Sheppard and Scott Vanover, in the city of Barcelona in 2013. Brewing predominantly US styles, Edge has developed a strong following both in its native country and here in the UK.
Triple Virgin Cherries is the result of a collaboration between Edge and BIIR’s Belgian brewmaster Gunther Bensch. Bensch’s roots (as a former employee of Brouwerij Girardin) led the two breweries to settle on brewing a Belgian style tripel, but with a unique twist. 50 kilos of cherries, from the harvest that comes to Barcelona in late spring, were added at the end of fermentation, adding flavour but minimal sweetness.
“Gunther has been around the Catalunya scene for quite a while, he’s a fun guy and great brewer,” Edge’s Head Brewer Riley Finnigan tells me. “It was a logical partnership with his constant visits to Barcelona.”
“This beer has undergone three separate fermentations,” Finnigan explains. “The lactobacillus in the kettle, a Saccharomyces fermentation in the tank, and we finished it off with a champagne yeast to get a little extra attenuation. Because of this, it evolves really nicely. When we did some tastings to decide what to submit to the Barcelona Beer Festival this year, we submitted a year old version rather than the fresh batch. It’s a product that I enjoy more after a bit of cellaring.”
The beer pours a deliciously inviting ruby red, with a lively and slightly pink head. Glistening in the feeble winter sunshine, it is an enticing prospect. Aromas of cherry jam and fruit peel jump out of the glass, followed by a subtle hint of spice. It is lip-smackingly tart on the tongue, but balanced with an underlying sweetness. The finish is long, dry and astringent, as the tripel, hiding beneath the initial massive cherry hit, surfaces.
There is no hint of alcohol burn, and indeed Triple Virgin Cherries probably drinks more like a 5% kriek than a near 8% tripel. Closing my eyes, I can almost imagine smashing a bottle or three of it on the sands of Sant Sebastià, an experience I am sure many a Barcelonan beer geek has enjoyed in the past.
James Beeson is the British Guild of Beer Writers’ Best Young Beer Writer 2017. You can read more of his work on his website Beeson On Beer, in The Morning Advertiser, or by following him on Twitter @jdbeeson16. Purchase Edge Brewing’s Triple Virgin Cherries here, or check out more of HonestBrew’s selection of Spanish craft beers online.