Cuvee Soeur’ise is a pun on “sister” and “cherry,” in French “soeur” and “cerise”, and the word play points to the collision of Trappist and fruited sour traditions. This punning beer combines two very distinctive, very different classic beer styles of Belgium: the tripel and the kriek. A tripel is a clear, light-colored, high-gravity ale with pronounced notes of pepper, nougat, bubblegum, and apple from the Trappist or Trappist-like yeast used, and a good bit of perceived sweetness, though relatively few actual residual sugars. A kriek is a lambic aged on sour cherries: this rose-colored beer has the taste of fresh cherries without any of their sweetness, the complex tropical fruit and barnyard aromatics of a lambic, some savory vinegar notes, some almond and tannins from the cherry pits and stems and skins, ultra dry, ultra tart. One style is round, sweet, and coating; the other is sharp, tannic, and prickling; both are incredibly complex on the level of phenol and ester.
Cuvee Soeur’ise is a completed tripel, the brewery’s other offering, Enfant Terriple (you can see that Brouwerij de Leite is very fond of puns). This tripel has then been subjected to the cherries and “wild” aging of a kriek, in a modified way. Only lactobacillus was added as the tripel was aged in red wine oak casks, meaning that not all the residual sugars have been eaten. Combined in this brew and in this way, the one style arises as the other subsides. The round pastry notes of the tripel alternate with the acidic and tannic jabs of fruit from the kriek, a sweet coating and spicy introduction followed by a dry, acidic, tannic finish. The tannins from the oak and some vanilla notes from lactones in the oak are at play in the beer. The vacillation between sweet and acidic and somewhat savory and somewhat bitter will sound familiar when we get to the Rodenbach, but the combination of pale malts, high gravity, and real fruit acidity in conjunction with lactic notes more specifically reminds me of Mas Agave from Founder’s, one of the most exciting new beers from this past summer. As with the Rodenbach and the Mas Agave, the combination of some sweetness with pronounced acidity makes this an incredibly versatile beer with which to eat.
Similar Beers in the Store: Cuvee Mam’zelle, from the same brewery, Brouwerij De Leite. This is another sour tripel, but it is also an actual gruit! A topic for another month. See also, La Sirene Wild Tripelle, and Sour Monkey.
The Belgian directive is to know your bugs and treat them well. Let them do the work, only allow them to do the work. As a result, beers created in the Belgian spirit are much closer to instances of nature than most other beers and have that complexity of all natural objects, that goes beyond human attention, but is always there when we remember to look, expanding out before us.