Published August 27, 2010
The end of the Summer always brings with it piles of tasty sun-ripened fruit. Juicy peaches, sweet cherries, tart raspberries and a bushel of other examples of what Ned Flanders might call “nature's candy” are stacked high in grocery stores everywhere. So what if breweries used this bounty in their creations? Would civilization as we know it come crashing down around us any more quickly than it already is if beer had a little fruit in it?
Luckily, the answer is a resounding no, especially since brewers have a long tradition of adding fruit to the mix in any number of different beer styles – from lambics to witbiers. The assumption that most make about these beers is that they're overly sweet, cloying, syrupy and not fit for anything but a dessert topping or what some less enlightened souls might term “chick beer.”
The reality, however, is that many of these brews can be every bit as complex, refreshing and palate-pleasing as the darkest stout or a crisp IPA. Used correctly, the fruit accents a beer's best characteristics and acts as a reminder of all that's good about the summer. Granted, pounding a peach-flavored beer with your buddies doesn't sound quite as manly as downing a six of Bud or working through the local microbrew's list of lagers, but fruit beers make for an awesome change of pace, not to mention a great excuse for someone intriguing across the patio to stop over and ask to try your beer.
Buffalo Bill's Orange Blossom Cream Ale – Brewed with orange peel, orange blossom extract and honey, Orange Blossom Cream Ale tends toward the sweet side of the spectrum, but retains enough cream ale characteristics and malty flavors for you to keep picking up the bottle. It's a clear yellow with a weak head and, not surprisingly, a creamy mouth feel. Very drinkable, with a ginger-like spice and a satisfying bitterness that keeps it from going over the top with the sweetness. In the end, it's like beer and orange soda got together and had delicious babies. Never mind the physiological impossibility of that, it's a beer worth trying.
Lindeman's Framboise – A deep ruby red, this lambic drinks like spiked raspberry soda. Most of the beer character is lost beneath the tart candied fruit, but there's still some of the “lambic funk” that makes these beers so popular worldwide. It's not a good all-day drinker, though. Too sweet for most beer fans, it'd be a solid brunch bottle in place of champagne. And it's definitely not a good companion for a BBQ or ballpark.
O'Fallon Wheach – A wheat beer with the typical citrusy flavors of its breed and a spectacularly refreshing tang to it, Wheach pours a murky gold with soft bubbles that froth into a nice cream-colored head. The sour notes give way to a light peach flavor that has just the right amount of sweetness. Great to pair with hot dogs or brats, this beer is an easy drink, with a nice light body that fits the bill for hot August days.
Samuel Smith's Organic Cherry Fruit Beer – No fruit screams summer more than cherries, and this ale has cherry flavor to spare. Pouring a rich brown with a slight red tinge and a thick fluffy white head, the malt and hops conspire to enhance an amazing sour cherry taste accented by a rich yeasty aroma. It's still a light ale, but the cherries overlay every aspect of the flavor. A little on the sweet side, but never cloying or syrupy, it has enough soft carbonation to bring out the best in this beer without becoming harsh. Pairing surprisingly well with beef or ribs, you can also make a spectacular BBQ sauce out of it. Plus, after a few bottles there are all sorts of inappropriate jokes to be made – always a hit at family functions.