There's something truly special about the first moment in the spring when you find yourself aching for a refreshing beverage. It usually means that it's nice and warm out, and that you've exerted some physical effort that demands liquid payback. For many, that harbinger of a pleasant season soon to come would be celebrated with a lemonade, or a Campari & soda, or (god forbid) a Bud Light. But not for me. My taste buds and olfactory memories have been pushed into strange domains over years of experimentation, and to cut me from my winter's wrap, I need something pretty special to break the spell. Wrapped in minimally decorated paper like an illicit magazine subscription, Brouwerij de Ranke's Kriek de Ranke
is my type of pre-summer celebration.
This funky gem pours on like incandescently radioactive liquid ruby. Unlike many of its brethren, though, the aroma that's unleashed when the bottle is opened has very little of the horsey, wild fungal odor. Instead, it's the smell of sour - not an aged, moldy vinegar sour, but a sourness that speaks to the act of ripening itself, a sour that evokes the earliest visages of springtime fruit and prematurely tasted produce, a sour of potential energy.
The taste that follows is a wonderfully dry and tart cherry flavor that's all essence and no sweetness, like the promise of an early blossom compared to the end of harvest, nearly rotted fruit heaviness of a Hanssens. Hints of the true wildness of the character are easily buried within the odors of a day's work outdoors, and the finish is as quick as nightfall. It's truly a unique and poetic beer of the season, and worth all this gummy rhapsodizing. Sitting here admiring my first mosquito bite of the year, its a drink I find perfect to compliment that celebration of seasonal change.