There are so many different styles of craft beer and honestly, I love most of them. Fruit beer is the style that originally got me interested in craft beer – I’m looking at you Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. There was something about the cherry that helped me enjoy that beer more than any others before it.
After enjoying that fruit beer, I started looking for others like it. But there was a problem, other fruit beer wasn’t as good. I would say, “normally I like fruit beer but not this one.”
That’s because the term “fruit beer” didn’t tell me much about what to expect. It doesn’t say what kind of fruit is in it, the base style of the beer, or if the fruit was naturally added or if flavoring (natural or artificial) was used. All I know is there should be a fruit flavor to it and as a new craft beer drinker that was confusing.
This has led me down the path of understanding this style better.
What Is A Fruit Beer?
Fruit has been added to beer for a very long time. However, it was only added to specific styles; like lambics. Adding fruit to other styles is a relatively new trend. Homebrewing and the craft beer revolution has brought us more and more fruit beers.
The Brewers Association breaks fruit beer into three categories: American-Style Fruit Beer, Wheat Fruit Beer and Belgian-Style Fruit Beer.
In similar fashion, the BJCP uses these three: Fruit Beer, Fruit Beer With Spices and Specialty Fruit Beer (typically has an additional ingredient like honey added to it).
When reading through their descriptions, the only thing that is obvious is that fruit flavor and aroma is required in the final product.
The Brewers Association does a nice job breaking down the styles based on whether it is a wheat beer, made with Belgian yeast or isn’t either of these. The BJCP is more focused on what is used in addition to fruit.
However, what is confusing is the base beer (style before fruit is added) can be just about anything. Meaning a fruited pilsner falls into the same category as a fruited stout. I think this can be quite confusing. The term fruit beer doesn’t tell me enough about the beer to know if I will like it.
So for anyone looking to try fruit beer; it is important to find learn the base beer before ordering.
How Are Fruit Beers Made?
Just as you would guess, fruit beer is made by adding fruit to beer.
While that sounds easy, there are lots of options and precautions needed to ensure the desired outcome. A brewery can use extract, puree, fresh or frozen fruit. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. For me, the beers made with extract can often be too sweet or taste artificial; however, it is also the easiest method.
Depending on the form of the fruit, it is added and used in different ways. Extract is added just before packaging while the others are added to the final stages of the boil or during fermentation so the beer ages on the fruit. Deciding when to add depends on what flavor you are wanting to achieve and preventing infection.
Fruit has chemicals and bacteria on it. So boiling can prevent them from ruining the beer. It is also imperative to ensure the fruit does have preservatives added to it as this will kill the yeast.
Learn More About Craft Beer: What Is SRM?
What Styles Can Be Made Into Fruit Beer?
Here’s where fruit beer gets confusing. The reality is any style can have fruit added to it.
What that means is those that are new to craft beer must be very careful when ordering or buying fruit beer. It’s all about the base beer. You must find out what style they started with before the fruit was added then determine if it is something you want to try.
Here are some of the most popular styles that fruit are added to:
- Sour (lambic, gose, berliner weisse, wild ales)
- Blonde Ales
- IPA and Pale Ales
But remember, there are many other styles that become fruit beer so be aware before you order.
Why Are We Seeing More Of Them?
Is it just me or are we seeing more beer made with fruit? Fruit has been added to beer for years but in the modern craft beer world, it seems to be picking up momentum and being applied to more styles.
I think there are a few factors that encouraging more fruit beer:
Craft beer is a direct result of home brewing and at the heart of home brewing is experimentation. Challenging what we have been told is beer supposed to be is what we are all about.
As beer has evolved, experimentation created new flavor experiences. When you consider the number of different fruit combinations that can be applied to the wide variety of beer styles, you realize that the options are nearly unending.
Attract Non-Beer Drinkers
I always say that everyone likes beer but some just haven’t discovered the style that they like yet. In many ways this is true, when you consider beer can be sweet, dark, rich, light, hoppy, sour, etc. There’s a flavor profile for everyone.
Fruit beer is a great way to introduce new craft beer drinkers to a style. By trying a grapefruit IPA, they can learn to appreciate the fruit portion of the beer long before the hoppy, bitter side. This goes for just about any style too. For example, I became a fan of sour beers by first loving the fruit sour beers.
Popularity Of IPAs
We all know that IPAs are the most popular style of beer. Love them or hate them; there are more of them than anything else. As this style has grown in popularity and evolved, hop growers have gotten really good at creating hop varieties that produce fruit flavors.
I think we have all been told to “look” for notes of grapefruit, citrus, peach, etc that come from the hops. To accentuate those flavors, it is only natural to actually add those fruits to the beer. So in this way, fruit IPAs have helped lead the way and create more fruit beer options.
Related Post: What Is Sour Beer And How Is It Made?
So while there can be quite a bit of confusion with fruit beers, they are good for craft beer. They add variety and help expand what beer can be and who likes it.
As long as you know the base beer style, you will be able to ensure that you’ll enjoy the beer and the fruitiness that it brings.
What Is Your Favorite Fruit Beer?