Fruit beers are often polarizing—people either love them or hate them. Thankfully, there has been so much experimentation, from different base-beer styles to real-fruit additives and varying aging techniques. Today’s selections offer something for most palates, running the gamut from nuanced to in-your-face fruitiness, and just about everything in between.
As an overall style, fruit beers are loosely defined. The base beer can vary widely, from lagers to IPAs to stouts and beyond.
The idea is to find the best vehicle for the fruit addition selected and the final character desired. As an example, Victory’s new Cage Radler, which employs a crisp lager as the base style to mimic the classic German radler—meaning cyclist, a 50-50 mixture of beer and sparkling lemonade originally crafted to quench thirsty peddlers without inhibiting the rest of their journey due to the consumption of too much alcohol—to achieve a light bodied, immensely refreshing and sessionable selection.
Today’s selections offer something for most palates, running the gamut from nuanced to in-your-face fruitiness.
Some of the most renowned fruit beers come from Belgium, where traditional lambics are king. Spontaneously fermented and blended with fresh fruits during secondary fermentation, these are some seriously fruit-driven beers that exhibit the best of the ingredient alongside tart wild-yeast and -microorganism (like Brettanomyces, Pediococcus and Lactobacillus) flavors. The “wild” sour or barnyard characteristics lend depth, balance and vibrancy to what could be an otherwise overly sweet or cloying fruit flavor. They are also quite low in alcohol, which means you can enjoy more without any serious side effects.
Also rooted in European tradition, Berliner weissbier—a German-style soured wheat ale—has caught the attention of many American craft brewers as a refreshing, fun and playful style of beer open to interpretation, as well as various fruit additions. Some of these hot offerings are also included below. Prost!
Bruery Terreux 2016 Frucht: Passion Fruit (Berliner Weissbier; Bruery Terreux, CA); $15/750 ml, 92 points. This is a stunning new selection from California-based The Bruery’s new brand, Bruery Terreux. The Frucht series will feature a Berliner Weisse-style beer that’s brewed in a dedicated oak foeder with a different fruit each time. This first installment is brewed with passion fruit, which harmonizes perfectly with the base style’s inherent tart profile and the earthy and funky notes that are derived from the fermentation in oak. Tart passion-fruit aromas and flavors abound, with complementary notes of pineapple, mango, yogurt, green apple, fresh grass and lime leaf. Light in body and brisk in carbonation, the palate is bright and mouthwatering, finishing crisp and clean.
Dogfish Head Fort (Fruit/Vegetable Beer; Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, DE); $12/12 oz, 92 points. Bottled on 10/24/15 (meaning this would be considered the 2015 vintage of the brew), this fruit beer is not for the faint of heart—it’s a Belgian-style ale fermented with over a ton of raspberries that boasts some serious overall concentration and strength. A stunning orange-amber color, with a thick off-white head, assertive notes of juicy raspberries abound, accented by hints of tart citrus, cranberry and yeasty spice. The medium-bodied palate is slightly sticky and viscous, but not as full as one might anticipate given the alcohol. Flavors of sour raspberries, tart orange-cranberry sauce and some yeasty funk carry through to the long, dry and warming finish. A cellar-worthy beer worth trying after 2017.
Lindemans Pêche Lambic (Fruit Lambic; Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium); $5/12 oz, 91 points. This is a classic and traditional fruit lambic, spontaneously fermented with peaches added during secondary fermentation. The beer is fresh, fruity and remarkably easy to drink, with ripe peach tones throughout the nose and mouth that are lifted by bright acidity and hints of sour yeast. It’s certainly strongly fruited, but doesn’t taste artificial or overly cloying, finishing long, slightly funky and refreshingly mouthwatering.
Tallgrass Brewing Co. Raspberry Jam Berliner Weiss (Berliner Weissbier; Tallgrass Brewing Co., KS); $13/12 oz 4 pack 91 points. A new, seasonal addition to Tallgrass’s Explorer Series lineup, this raspberry-flavored Berliner Weisse is perfect for warm-weather enjoyment. Scents of tart raspberries dominate the bouquet, with supporting notes of citrus peel, fresh wheat and crisp salinity. The light-bodied palate is bright and refreshing, with lively effervescence and tangy flavors of sour raspberry, gooseberry and lime leaf. It’s well balanced and very easy to drink, and with a low alcohol level, it’s a sessionable selection that could easily become your new go-to for summer.
Lindemans Kriek Lambic (Fruit Lambic; Brouwerij Lindemans, Belgium); $5/12 oz, 90 points. A gorgeous, deep red color in the glass, with a light pink head that lingers and, this lambic is flush in vibrant red-cherry aromas and flavors. The palate exhibits a masterful display of interplay between sweet and tart cherry flavors, dancing back and forth, never fully landing on one or the other but remaining delicious and refreshing through and through. Medium carbonation assists in keeping the palate lifted and the finish clean.
Flying Dog Fever Dream Mango Habanero IPA (American IPA; Flying Dog Brewery, MD); $13/12 oz 6 pack 89 points. A recent addition to Flying Dog’s year-round lineup after a successful run in their Brewhouse Rarities series, this innovative IPA features the surprising marriage of mango and habanero with a hop-forward ale. It sounds like it might be a jumble, but the elements work surprisingly well together, leading with bright tropical-fruit tones of mango, melon, pineapple and passion fruit that then yield to the spicy pepper, pine and rich malt flavors on the palate and through the finish. It’s a roller coaster of a drinking experience, with sweet highs and spicy lows that ride the medium-bodied mouthfeel through to the slightly bitter finish.
Unibroue Éphémère (Fruit/Vegetable Beer; Unibroue, Canada); $8/750 ml, 88 points. A Belgian white ale brewed with apple juice, coriander and orange peel, this pours a pale golden-orange color, with a thick white head that falls fairly quickly. As expected, ripe apple aromas and flavors are at the forefront, but are supported by notes of wheat, orange rind, peach, bready malt, coriander and yeasty spice. The light-bodied mouthfeel boasts assertive carbonation that leads into the crisp, refreshing close that boasts lingering flavors of pepper and sweet spice.
Victory Cage Radler (Fruit/Vegetable Beer; Victory Brewing Company, PA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 88 points. A lager with lemon, this is a definite thirst quencher for sweltering summer days. It pours a slightly hazy lemonade-like color, with a small head that falls fast. The nose is fresh and lively, with upfont aromas of lemon soda and peel. There’s a clean grain backbone to the light mouthfeel, with just a touch of minerality that graces the refreshing close. Overall, an easy-drinking and very sessionable brew.