BeerWise: Fruit Beer

With summer just around the corner you’ve probably noticed an influx of beers featuring fruity flavors at your local carrier.  This timely edition of BeerWise will explore the history of fruit beer and the rise of fruit beer in the Craft Beer revolution.

Before we go any further I need to clarify the difference between fruit beer and fruity beer. Craft beer drinkers cringe when Bud Light Lime is called fruit beer.  Fruit-flavored, yes.  Fruit beer, no.  Adding fruit flavor to beer is not the same as brewing beer with fruit.

Photo credit: Adrian Scottow / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: Adrian Scottow / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Fruit beer is not sparkling wine.  It is brewed just like other beer using the same procedures and primary ingredients.  Historically, a single type of fruit – cherries or raspberries –  is used in brewing and the fruit is added to add subtle flavor notes, not to be the primary flavor.

Belgium has been brewing fruit beer for centuries and when craft beer brewers first began digging for ancient styles of fruit beer, they looked to Belgium for recipes. The most ancient Belgium fruit beer is a lambic beer known as Kriek (cherry).  Lambic beer is brewed with wild yeast and has a very unique flavor.

Craft beer brewers have expanded well beyond the traditional cherries and raspberries to offer a wide selection of fruit beers.  Berries are most commonly used because they work well in the brewing and produce excellent flavors.  Tree fruits like apricots, peaches, and plums are being used more often and feature a sweeter flavor with a nice, tart finish.  True to the spirit of the Craft Beer revolution, brewers are pushing the envelope and releasing more varieties every summer including fruit beers made with tropical fruits and even fruit flower blossoms.

Brewing fruit beer is very challenging.  The fruit has to be properly cleaned to remove wild yeasts and bacteria or it will ruin the beer.  Also, the fruit must be added in the right amounts at the exact right moment during brewing or it will cause unpleasant flavors, textures, and/or excessive cloudiness in the final product.  If you find a fruit beer you really love you can be sure the brewmaster went through several trials and many errors to perfect the beer in your glass.

When purchasing fruit beer, be sure to look for “brewed with real fruit” and not “fruit flavor added” or else you’ll be be buying a beer cocktail instead of a true fruit beer.  Also, if the fruit beer is brewed with whole fruit it will have a much more subtle flavor than a beer brewed with real fruit syrup.

Try a fruit beer this summer.  Then try another one.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m always on the lookout for something new and good. I’ve had a cherry porter or two that tasted like cough syrup. I didn’t hate them but it bugged me that it tasted fake.

  2. Good info. As always! I’ll be on the look out for a good fruit beer for the summer!

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