- June 25, 2015
By Steve Hawk
Fruit-style beers don’t get nearly the praise or hype they deserve. They are often dismissed as “beginner” beers or even called “girly.” But that’s not the case at all. And besides, you can find natural fruit flavors in non-fruit beers such as the orange citrus flavor of a hoppy IPA or the natural hints of banana in a Belgian farmhouse ale. When brewers introduce the right mix of added fruit to beers, they showcase flavors in creative and artistic ways. In fact, some of the most well respected breweries have been brewing fruit styles for years. Critically acclaimed beers like Sly Fox Raspberry Reserve and Weyerbacher Riserva are big, complex brews that even the most “manly” beer drinker would appreciate.
Summer is the season when this unsung hero of the beer world finally gets its time in the sun. It’s a time when more refreshing and slightly sweeter drinks become desirable. Fruit beers are a great alternative to the big, roasty beers we’ve been drinking all winter. They are great for picnics, ball games, a day at the beach or any outdoor activity.
So, which beers immediately come to mind? Without question, any fruit infused wheat beer tops the list. Wheat beers tend to be light in alcohol, very drinkable and refreshing. Excellent examples of these beers include 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat, Sea Dog Wild Blueberry, and a few from the Abita Brewing Company, Purple Haze, Strawberry Harvest and Lemon Wheat, all of which are brewed with copious amounts of fresh fruit added at different points throughout the brewing process.
I wanted to dig a little deeper to determine which fruit beers are the true standouts and what the trends are for the style this summer.
I posed those questions to Mike “Scoats” Scotese, Philly beer legend and co-owner of The Grey Lodge Pub, Hop Angel Brauhaus, and the soon to-open SawTown Tavern in Northeast Philadelphia.
“Historically, when fruit was added to a beer, it was very clearly labeled in the name,” said Scoats. “The fruit was definitely a key selling point. If you had a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat for example, you knew it was going to have a strong cherry presence.”
“Now fruit is becoming a recognized tool in a brewer’s bag of tricks to make a great beer,” Scoats continued, “and blood orange is emerging as a dominant flavor. Sam Adams Cold Snap was a pleasant surprise. The orange and plum flavors made for a really tasty witbier.”
Intrigued by Scoats’s references to “blood orange,” I wanted to see which summer beers are embracing that flavor. One that stands out is Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale by Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. It’s a pale ale with a strong punch of blood orange flavoring that blends perfectly with its special mix of northwestern bittering hops.
Other citrus standouts include Lexicon Devil Grapefruit Pale Ale from Spring House. The Citra-heavy seasonal is loaded with grapefruit zest and cold-pressed grapefruit juice. Tart and refreshing, this brew is the perfect summer quencher, and it’s available in cans! Evil Genius’ grapefruit pale ale, Turtle Power, brewed and dry-hopped with Citra hops, flourishes with tropical, tart and juicy grapefruit flavors. And the brewery’s pineapple hefeweizen, I Love Lamp, is a delicious mix of banana, pineapple and clove flavors – a perfect beer to sip in the sun.
The creativity and artistry of brewing fruit beer doesn’t stop with the citrus or berry varieties that have been the most common. Many breweries are now experimenting with fruit flavors that one would not typically expect in a beer. Unibroue in Chambly, Canada offers Éphémère Apple and Éphémère Cranberry, the first of which is brewed with a mouthwatering bouquet of Granny Smith Apples and the second with a selection of slightly tart cranberries. Both are light, refreshing beers that are finely-crafted, well balanced and created from worldclass recipes. And, this summer, Unibroue will release Éphémère Pear, the accomplishment of a “pearfect” balance between the delicate sweetness of mild, ripe pear and the refreshing acidity of a lightly spiced white ale.
Two stand-out beers from Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware are Festina Pêche and Aprihop. Festina Pêche is a unique style that few breweries attempt. It’s a Berliner Weisse, which typically features a hint of tartness. In this case, it aligns perfectly with the fresh pureed peaches used in this brew. Aprihop is an exception among fruit beers, as it is very hop-forward and slightly higher in alcohol content, weighing in at 7% ABV.
While it still may not be socially acceptable to order a mango wheat beer at a ball game with your buddies, I hope this article puts to rest some of the misconceptions about this truly enjoyable, versatile and exceptionally well-crafted genre.
Steve Hawk a.k.a The Beer Guy