The Case Against Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic

This is a guest post by Russ Phillips — one half of (the only international beer blog run by identical twins). Check out his blog posts here and follow TwinBeer on Twitter @TwinBeer. If you’d like to contribute a guest post to, please feel free to contact me.

Cranberry Lambic, two simple words that push the tongue out of any beer lover’s mouth. The fruitcake of beers, Cranberry Lambic is one of those beers that stay in the back of your fridge for way too long. Eventually you break down sometime in March and either pour it out or give it to an unsuspecting, non-beer drinking friend under the guise of it being a “not too bad fruit beer”. It truly is amazing that most of the beer drinking public is so unattached to this offering, especially after you consider that it will be celebrating its’20th birthday next year!

First brewed back in 1990, that’s right folks almost two decades ago, Cranberry Lambic is a regional take on an old Belgian style, only it’s not really. Lambics are traditionally fermented spontaneously by allowing the wild yeasts in the air to settle in the open fermentation tanks. Cranberry Lambic is fermented by having a Belgian-style yeast strain added to the wort at a scheduled time during the brewing process, which is the opposite of spontaneous if you ask me.

Sam Adams describes their Cranberry Lambic this way:

“A Belgian-style fruit beer that draws its flavor not just from the cranberries it is brewed with, but also from the unique fermentation character imparted by a rare wild yeast strain. The result is a flavor rich in fruitiness and reminiscent of cranberries, bananas, cloves, and nutmeg. The yeast fermentation also creates a slight sourness on the sides of the palate, a signature of the original Belgian lambics.”

If I had never had this beer, which I wish I could say is true, I’d probably say that it sounds pretty decent and I’d certainly give it a try. Unfortunately for poor old Cranberry Lambic, the word is out on how not-so-great it is so regardless of what the commercial descriptions says the populous says otherwise. Personally, I find it sickeningly sweet and undrinkable but that is just me…or is it. A simple search on the interweb brings up these classic quotes:

“Cranberry flavored urine, served as an alcoholic beverage. Made by Samuel Adams. Comes in holiday pack.” – Urban Dictionary

“If you’re going to call your beer a “lambic” at least make a true attempt to create a lambic. This is nothing more than a fruit beer, an unbalanced one and a very misleading beer. – Todd Alström of BeerAdvocate

If that isn’t enough, the two largest beer review sites (BeerAdvocate and ratebeer) have numbers that speak volumes on just how poor this beer is. Over at BeerAdvocate, after 757 reviews Cranberry Lambic has an average rating of C. This is the lowest average for any Sam Adams beer with over 4 reviews other than the mistake that was the 1790 Root Beer Brew from their Patriot Brew Collection (198 reviews with an average of C-). On RateBeer, after 934 ratings, it has an average of 2.5 out of 5. It falls into the 14% percentile which means it’s pretty much at the lower end of mediocrity. The people have spoken!

The saddest thing is that Cranberry Lambic is merely a “holiday” release and this means its only available a few months of the year and even at that it is only packaged in the Sam Adams Holiday Pack which only contains three bottles of the stuff! I feel for you Cranberry Lambic, I really do. You are the black licorice lovers of the beer world. To those that love it, you know who you are, I am sure you look forward to the holidays so that you can hit up all your friends for their leftover bottles. I say, go for it. You are doing the beer drinking populace a favor!

Cheers to you Sam Adams for almost twenty years of defying popular interest and brewing Cranberry Lambic. Either you’re still trying to get rid of bottles from the first year it was brewed or you truly don’t care what people have to say about your beer. Either way, I commend you for your stubbornness!

On a closing note, if all else fails and you’ve got some bottles of this in your fridge that your drain wouldn’t drink, you could always put your apron on and make some Cranberry Beer Bread! I found this recipe over at Democratic Underground:

Cranberry Beer Bread:
3 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
0.5 c sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
0.5 c dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF and lightly grease a loaf pan.

In very large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in cranberries. Make a well in the centre and add vegetable oil and beer. Stir just until no streaks of flour remain. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 55-60 minutes, until top springs back when lightly pressed. Turn out of the pan and allow to cool on wire rack.

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  1. I’ve got nine of these POS sitting in my basement for four years now.
    I found a  great deal on the mix pack that made up for the 25% reduction in beers.
    This beer stinks. Ruins the whole mix pack.

  2. Couldn’t agree more.  I have yet to meet a single person who doesn’t think this stuff is toxic!


  3. This article gave me a laugh – thanks!
    Cranberry Lambic does seem to be the Holiday Pack’s redheaded stepchild.

  4. great article and so true!

    Should remove CL and give us three more Fezziwigs or Porters in the Holiday Pack

  5. This stuff is awful. Dreadful. If you want to taste a really good cranberry lambic, try to get your hands on the Cran-bic from New Glarus.
    Delicious stuff.

  6. Lol I fucking LOVE this stuff. It was disgusting at first. Maybe it destroyed my taste buds but I grew to really really love this beer! I look forward to it Every Winter.


    I love this stuff! You guys are probably the reason my Lambic and Holiday Porter have been replaced in the seasonal sampler with rotten IPAs and chocolate bocks. Talk about ick of the season.

  8. I opened a 5 year old bottle i discovered and it’s pretty darn tasty, absolutely disgusting when fresh which is why I have a old bottle.
    Always remember depending on style, DON”T DUMP YOUR BEER!

  9. My friends and I loved this stuff back in the 90’s. We waited all year for the Autumn when it would come back. However, they definitely &#^$ it up at some point, because when it was back on the shelf one year we thought the new recipe was totally gross. Honestly though, in those days we thought that Boston Lager was “good beer”…so maybe it was always gross.

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