Don’t get me wrong: I dearly love burly barley wines and stouts darker than a starless night. But after spring emerges from another snowy winter, my tastes turn to lighter and brighter beers, especially ones brewed with fruit. It’s a style that grows on you.
Categorically speaking, there’s no hard-and-fast definition for a fruit beer. Some are overly sweet, like candy, while others are so intensely fruity that they call to mind a boozy, watery smoothie. That’s a misfire. Fruit beers should not be about excess but rather integration, with strawberries, peaches, and apricots adding layers of flavor and aroma that work in tandem with hops and malt. Balance, not a teeter-totter tipping too far to one side.
Done properly, fruit can be deployed in a wide range of beer styles. Louisiana-based Abita’s graceful Strawberry Harvest is a crisp lager, while its zesty Grapefruit Harvest is an IPA—as is Dogfish Head’s apricot-driven Aprihop. San Francisco-based 21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon is a smooth, American-style wheat ale, while Harpoon’s UFO Raspberry is a billowy, refreshing hefeweizen.
Fruit also plays a starring role in many sour beers. Sweetness tempers the acidic punch of Belgian lambics, as well as a number of American wild and sour ales. In particular, fruit is a key ingredient in Allagash’s cherry-infused Coolship Cerise, Cascade Brewing‘s Apricot Ale, and Goose Island’s two new tart, barrel-aged saisons: The brewery’s Gillian contains strawberries, honey, and white pepper; Halia is fermented with fresh peaches and pears inside wine barrels, where the wild yeast Brettanomyces goes to work, adding an earthiness and dry finish.
5 to Try
Founders Brewing Co. Rübæus: Tiptoeing the fine line between tart and sweet, the Michigan brewery’s summery seasonal is chockablock with raspberries, resulting in a jewelry-worthy ruby hue.
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon: There’s no artificial flavoring in this warm-weather thirst assassin. A wheat beer, it’s fermented with ripe, red watermelon puree, creating a strawberry-blonde sipper that’s crisp and tart.
Dogfish Head Aprihop: Torn between an IPA and a fruit beer? Aprihop cuts the difference by stitching a citrusy nose to a sweet malt spine supported by plenty of apricots.
Atlantic Brewing Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale: Maine is known for its abundant blueberries, which star in this amber ale. It’s light and delicate, and the fruit never overpowers.
Abita Strawberry Harvest: After Abita’s brisk, low-alcohol lager (just 4.2 percent ABV) is filtered, brewers pour in Louisiana strawberry juice for aroma and flavor.&
When considering pairings, pay close attention to the style of beer. For a delicate sour beer, try a fresh chèvre, such as Capricho de Cabra; the prickly carbonation is a perfect palate cleanser. Or opt for a robust alpine-style cheese like Roth Gran Queso Double Aged; its sweet undercurrent is a friend to fruit. Lighter brews, such as lagers, hefeweizens, or wheat beers, do well with fresh mozzarella, such as those from Point Reyes, or creamy burrata (try those from BelGioioso or Maplebrook Farm). Above all, most fruit beers are marvelous with mascarpone, namely Vermont Creamery’s decadent rendition.
A serving suggestion: Spoon mascarpone from the tub onto some sliced fruit or toasted bread, and then sip your brew. It’s an indulgent pairing sure to bear fruit.