Fruit beers—I don’t know any other beer style that elicits such extreme reactions. Like Springsteen, the Yankees, Woody Allen movies or even beets, people either seem to love ’em or hate ’em; there is no in-between.
The best examples always turn to the real fruit, whether in dried, peel, purée or whole form.
In my experience, the folks that generally regard fruit beers as overly confected, sweet or “artificial”-tasting might be stuck in the past or just picking up the wrong selections to try. Sometimes it’s tough to move beyond a negative perception once you’ve had a distasteful beer that you believe exemplifies the category as a whole.
Before the craft explosion, or even still, with some large-production selections, artificial extracts and flavorings can give fruit beers their flavor. But the best examples always employ the real deal, either in dried, peel, purée or whole (like in the case of berries) form.
Another important factor in choosing your own Goldilocks of fruit beers is the base of the beer. As an overall style, fruit beers are very loosely defined; the base beer can be just about anything, from a lager to a pale ale and even a stout. And chances are, if you don’t like the base beer in its non-fruited form, you’re not gonna dig the fruited version of it, either.
But, truth is, with the wide variety of quality fruit beers that are available today, there’s something out there to please nearly every palate. By paying attention to the ingredients and the base style, you can find the one that’s just right for you.
Recommended Fruit Beers
Bruery Terreux 2017 Frucht: Boysenberry (Berliner Weissbier; Bruery Terreux, CA); 94 points, $12/750 ml. The latest release in Bruery Terreux’s Frucht lineup is this tart Berlin-style wheat beer that’s aged in oak foeders with boysenberries. Balanced, complex and immensely enjoyable, it pours a gorgeous purple-ruby color, with a fluffy light-pink head that lingers. The bouquet is massively fruity, but cleanly and attractively so, boasting intense fruit aromas of mixed berries, plum and vinous grape tones, with additional notes of oak spice, leather, barnyard funk and dried grass. The light-bodied palate offers more of the same, with vibrant fruit flavors that are lifted by high carbonation and a bright, tart acidic seam. abv: 4.5%
Societe The Highbinder Feral (American Wild Ale; Societe Brewing Company, CA); $18, 500 ml, 92 points. This blended barrel-amber ale was aged in California wine barrels, a portion of that time with raspberries. Cloudy mahogany in color, the vibrant bouquet offers aggressive notes of sour funk and tart berry that are complemented by additional vinous scents of red-wine vinegar and lightly toasted oak. Despite the sour notes, the mouthfeel is surprisingly full and creamy, though completely lifted by the acidic flavors and vibrant carbonation. The long finish is laced with tart fruit, cocoa powder and woodspice flavors. abv: 5.7%
Anchor’s Blood Orange Blonde(American Blonde Ale; Anchor Brewing Co., CA); $10/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. A sessionable selection that’s available in cans, California orange peels are added to the brewkettle, while blood orange fruit is added during secondary fermentation, resulting in a fresh, layered fruit character on both the nose and mouth. It’s tangy, juicy and refreshing, with a noticeable blood-orange aroma and flavor that’s not overpowering, and harmonizes with the mild, citrusy hop bitterness and soft malt core. The finish is remarkably clean, bright and slightly dry. abv: 4.5%
Coronado Brewing Co. Guava Islander Tropical IPA (American IPA; Coronado Brewing Co., CA); $11/12 oz 6 pack, 89 points. This selection marries Coronado’s Islander IPA, brewed with Centennial, Chinook and Columbus hops, with fresh guava purée. Unfiltered, it’s a bold and fruity selection, brimming with notes of tropical fruit salad on the nose and mouth that are complemented by a caramel malt core and earthy, herbal hop bitterness. The medium-weight mouthfeel is smooth and satisfying, with just enough carbonation to keep the palate lifted and the finish fresh. The finish is a pleasing mix of dry, earthy spice, sweet fruit and bitter citrus pith. abv: 7%