Fruit beers used to be lame, right? Artificial-tasting blueberry ales, cloyingly sweet strawberry wheats … but no more. Fruit beer has come a long way and is finally welcome on serious draft lists. Much credit belongs to fruited IPAs and fruited American wild ales for giving beer geeks permission to order something with pineapple in the name, but they’re not the only games in town. Here, six varied fruit beers we’d clear fridge space for this spring:
Ballast Point Mango Even Keel: Ballast Point famously adds fruit to a number of its popular beers (if you see yet another new grapefruit IPA, you know who to thank). One of our favorite results of this trend is a mango-spiked version of Even Keel session IPA. I attended an outdoor beer festival in Phoenix in February and in the heat of midday, this 3.8% crusher went down super easy and didn’t knock me out. It’s refreshing, sure, but it also offers a big punch of mango flavor that transitions from sweet to lemony-tart to a nicely clipped, just bitter finish. It’s impressively dynamic given its low ABV.
O’So Arbre Qui Donne: French for ‘Giving Tree,’ this sour blonde ale brewed with Georgia peaches is a wonderful expression of how well that fruit interacts with American wild ales. (See other excellent examples of this here.) Resist temptation to dive straight into this hazy, lightly golden pour; savor the lemon peel, fuzzy peach and apricot aromas that waft off the beer, ringed by a corona of white winelike minerality. OK, now take a sip. The peach flavor boomerangs, beginning with sweet juice and strawberry notes, then an intense lactic tartness arrives at the center before flavors circle back to the initial peach sweetness at the swallow. It’s sunny and almost dessertlike, reminiscent of a fresh Georgia peach pie.
Sun King Hot Rod Lincoln: A bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with cherries and chocolate might not scream spring drinking, but hey, it’s likely still chilly in some parts of the country. This layered stout integrates the cherries subtly; they’re most noticeable in the aroma, where they weave in and out of the stout’s dark fruit and chocolate notes. Cherries take a backseat on the tongue, letting malted milk ball sweetness initiate the sip before oaky vanilla and roast join the party. It’s a smooth, relatively easy sip (the 10% ABV is deftly concealed), and won’t knock anyone over with cherry sweetness.
DuClaw Quick Start My Heart: If you can hear about a milk stout brewed with strawberries and not immediately think of Nesquik strawberry milk, well, now you can’t. Scents of fresh-sliced strawberry springs all the way from the table, combining with almond-shell nuttiness that deepens the aroma. A milkiness tag teams with the strawberry, evoking strawberry ice cream. The sip, however, brings tons of ashy roast to the fore; charred malts and highly roasted nuts quickly chase away the sweet, fruity lactose, riding a substantially textured body. The strawberry addition is just a thin thread through this stout’s flavor, providing a quiet counterpoint to the intensely roasted stout.
Shorts Peachy Pom Pom: Shorts Brewing’s myriad offerings generally lean toward hops; the brewery hadn’t produced a sour beer until recently. But their brewers show an adept hand at it, integrating both peach and pomegranate for a sweet-tart duo that mirrors the base wild ale’s duality. Tart lemon flavor arrives first, quickly flanked by juicy pomegranate and warm peach; it dips a toe into the lactic sourness initially before sweet peach flesh rounds out the swallow. It’s balanced and drinkable, not an overly acidic tongue-scraper.
Wicked Weed Red Angel: This second annual release of this raspberry sour ale (one of numerous fruited sours in the brewery’s Angel series) sold out on preorder, but will be released in limited quantities on March 26 at the brewery’s Asheville, North Carolina Funkatorium. Brewers add four pounds of whole berries per gallon, resulting in a New Glarus-level fruit aroma. The sip is much drier than expected, given the sweet berry nose, with an oaky, tannic quality that gently tugs at the sides of the mouth. The raspberry character is seedlike, almost underripe, which should come as a relief to those wary of a sugar rush.