Breweries around the world are starting to blur the lines between beer, flavored malt beverage, cider, and wine. And they’re doing this with fruit. While some beer makers add a hint of fruit to an IPA, others are out there recreating milkshakes. Some sours are a delicate balance between acidic base beers and sweet fruit. Others? Well, let’s just say they’re not quite as balanced. So this week, we asked The Fervent Few to weigh in on fruit beers, fruit in beer, and where they draw the lime.
Brad: “I think that fruit in tart beers (mixed ferm, kettle sour, etc.) is something that has been happening for quite a while, and the flavor profile makes a lot of sense. But I really struggle when fruit is included in hoppy beers. The available hops today do a great job of mimicking fruit flavors and, as a result, I really don't see too much need for additional fruit additions. (And frequently when breweries try to do this, they create this weird flavor that brings out green hops plus whatever fruit is added. Piney mangos just don’t do it for me.) I trust a very select number of breweries like Tired Hands to create things like Milkshake IPAs, but in general, that's not a style that I am going to expect anyone outside of that group to do well.”
Lana Svitankova: “If fruit blends in well, creates harmony, and adds layers, that’s just fine with me. Raspberry Imperial Stout? Yes! Apricot Sour Ale? Indeed! But if it's used just as cover... I've tired a bit of simple sours (Berliner Weisse is the main suspect here) flavored with an array of different fruits just to please people who always want something new. It's the easiest way to make up a new variety. Mostly, these taste like carbonated fruit drink.”
Dom Cook: “Shit, I think fruit has its place, and when used for the right beers in the right ways, I’m all for it. I’m not down with just fruiting any and everything just because it’s cool or it’s ‘more approachable’ or, like Lana said, to cover shit up. And oh, I’d prefer my Berliners and Goses unfruited, so bring back traditional Berliner Weisse and Gose with my syrups added!”
Zack Rothman: “Fruit beers are supposed to taste like fruit. Lambics have a long history of adding fruits like cherries and raspberries to make Kriek or Framboise. I almost always find the addition of fruit to beer interesting, as it opens up a wide range of flavors and characteristics that basic beer ingredients try to imitate. Take Boulevard’s new Jam Band, for example. It’s got blueberry, raspberry, and tart cherry added that really give the beer the taste of a fruity jam with a subtle tartness.
The only thing that turns me off about adding fruit to beer is when it makes the beer cloyingly sweet or puckeringly sour. Brewers should be careful with which and how much fruit they add to avoid throwing off the balance of the beer. Fruit is supposed to be added to enhance the aroma and flavor of a beer. It should make a beer more enjoyable, not less. That said, fruited IPAs can be very nice combined with fruity hops. And adding fruit to Goses is one trend I hope to see continue to grow. I’m looking forward to the summer and drinking many fruit beers as the weather gets warmer.”
Austin L. Ray: “There's certainly a wide spectrum with fruit beers. I find myself attracted to the stuff that's dry and tart and mouth-watering (Casey beers, Jester King's Atrial Rubicite, etc.). It's when the fruit addition causes a syrupy flavor (Founders' Rubaeus, for example) that I opt out. IPAs of late have added a new layer to the game as well. I like that most of them have enough bitterness to (usually) balance out any of the over-the-top medicinal qualities that can show up. It's super interesting to me how three brewers could add the same fruit to the same style and come up with something totally different.”
Suzanne Schalow: “This is quite simple: with all ingredients, things should be in balance, so the final product is a medley of aromas and flavors that all complement each other. Fruit, or any other ingredient, can be blurry, unexciting, and a nuisance when its addition is unnatural, overpowering, or cloyingly sweet. I remember the first time I had a Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout, I remember feeling moved by the beer and wondered why blueberries hadn’t always been in Oatmeal Stouts. A subtle addition that gives the beer an added curiosity of flavors and mouthfeel, and for me, keeps the creaminess or chewiness of an Oatmeal Stout from being too much.”
Rick Owens: “When fruit complements the base beer, it is a welcomed addition. Berliners like Athena Paradiso, Saisons or wilds like Side Project, Casey (Leaner and Jammy are cool examples), and Jester King come to mind when I think about fruited beers I have tried and enjoyed. When the base beer is delicious on its own, fruit can be an interesting adjunct. When fruit dominates a beer either by accident or to cover up off flavors, it doesn’t do any good for the brand or the drinker. In my experience, it either confuses me or leads to me being dissatisfied.”
Mike McCarty: “I'm not a big fruit eater, so I generally don't like fruit in my beer. I think it's unnecessary in hoppy beers, as hops can be used creatively to mimic the flavors. Some of the fruited IPAs I've tried just seemed to be trying to do too much. I do make some exceptions, most often when it comes to sour beers. I particularly enjoy sour beers made with apricots. And as many have noted, balance is key, the fruit should complement, not dominate the beer.”
Chris Sadler: “I find that fruit can make for interesting beers, if done in a subtle way that integrates with the base beer flavors. Too many fruit beers these days, especially of the sour variety, cross the line into ‘malt beverage’ for me, though. I was drinking a fruited sour (made by a hazy NE IPA specialist) with a friend and he remarked, ‘I feel like we're not drinking beer anymore.’ Indeed, all you got was FRUIT, and no discernible hop, malt, or yeast flavors. I'll admit, these things can still be tasty in their own one-dimensional fruit way, but I'm ultimately left unsatisfied—I'd rather have something that retains some ‘beer’ flavors.”
Carla Jean Lauter: “I don't mind a beer that has some fruit. Like others, I prefer it to be subtle and not like literally drinking straight purée. The one thing I don't like is the bartenders that think they have to (or should) add a slice of fruit in, on, or attached to the rim of a beer glass or bottle. If a brewer made a beer it should stand on its own and not rely on a grimy piece of pre-cut fruit to be shoved onto the side of the pint glass to enhance it.”
Nick Yoder: “I've always found fruit in beer to be a great educational tool. How often do we really stop to think about what pineapple tastes like? But when you're drinking a pineapple IPA, you're going to really think about what it tastes like. And that's extremely useful for some of the tropical fruits found in the prevalent cheat code hops. Fruited beers really help build and refine a tasting vocabulary. Who has actually had passion fruit or guava? But how many people know what it tastes like because they've had it in beer and then can translate that to non-fruited examples?”
Caldwell Bishop: “I like fruit. And I tend to like beers with fruit in them. Though I suspect a Rauchbier with fruit would be a little weird.”
Grant McFarren: “As many others have said, fruit in balance can be a wonderful thing. Fermented fruit flavors (as found in many sours and wild ales) exist at the top of the spectrum. At the bottom, I'd place any clean beer with massive post-fermentation fruit additions, especially those that emulate smoothies. I can't get behind dangerously unstable beers that must stay cold or they risk exploding.”
Where do you stand on fruity beers? Is there a style of beer you prefer to have fruit added to? We want to hear your thoughts on this and many other topics. Join the Fervent Few and become a member of the most productive beer community on the internet.