Beer Geek

5 fruit beers for a sweet taste of summer

Aug. 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM ET

Jim Galligan /
Think real beer lovers can't get down with fruit brews? Think again -- they're perfectly refreshing for summer.

At the risk of losing my mancard, I’ll admit that I love a nice fruit beer during the dog days of summer.  There’s just something about the sweet and tart nature of these fruit-infused brews that quenches my thirst like nothing else can.

It seems silly now, but I was resistant to fruit beers when I first became a beer geek. I thought the addition of produce into a brew was more of a gimmick than part of the brewers’ art.  Plus, I thought fruit beers were for girls — like the wine coolers of the beer world — sugared-up to make the beer more palatable.

One sip of the first beer on this list changed my mind. It was then I realized that fruit beers are just plain awesome.

Founder Cerise is a 6.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) ale brewed with fresh Michigan tart cherries that are added at five different points during the fermentation process.  The remarkable thing about this beer is the sublime balance between the cherries and its biscuity malt foundation.  It’s almost like a cherry cobbler in a glass, with the sweetness and the tartness and richness all perfectly interwoven.  I buy this beer every year, and this year’s batch is particularly delightful.  It’s perfect for enjoying on the back deck after dinner on a warm summer evening.

Dogfish Head Festina Pèche is a 4.5% ABV Beliner-Weisse, a style of wheat beer known for its tartness.  In Germany, it’s sweetened up with a dash or raspberry syrup, but at Dogfish Head, it’s brewed with pureed peaches to build the fruitiness right into the beer. Festina Pèche starts out quite tart, then the sweet peaches come on and balance things out. And then it’s all neatly wrapped up with a dry, almost wine-like finish.  Last year’s edition of this beer was a bit too tart, but this year it strikes a much better balance.

Story: It's still summer, back off with the fall beers!

BridgePort Stumptown Tart is brewed with strawberries, raspberries and marionberries, a hybrid blackberry developed at Oregon State University. This 7.8% ABV bowl-of-fruit-in-a-bottle pours with a lovely pinkish-orange hue and smells of strawberries.  A sip rewards you with a bubbly gush of fruit flavors, with strawberries and raspberries leading the way, followed by a tart and dry finish.  I enjoyed a glassful of Stumptown Tart with a balsamic-marinated steak on a hot August evening, and they complemented one another wonderfully.  BridgePort changes this beer up every year – last year it was made with Oregon strawberries and the year before it was raspberries – so if you want to taste this year’s fruit medley, don’t dilly-dally.

Saranac Chocolate Orange is a beer I didn’t want to like, but turned out to be very, very good. Those of you who follow my brother and me over at Beer and Whiskey Brothers might know that I think most of Saranac’s offerings taste like the same beer, just with different flavoring squeezed in.  That’s not the case with Chocolate Orange, a 9% ABV Porter from their High Peaks Series that balances rich notes of cocoa and the sweet and biting taste of orange in a way that reminds me of an orange Tootsie pop, only with beer.  I had it before dinner at a local tap house, and it was just the thing to get my taste buds working before the food hit the table.  It’s also great to sip while lounging in the air conditioning with friends, as it’s too big of a beer to swig while doing yard work.  You’d get sucked into the lawnmower for sure!

Lindemans Framboise (French for “raspberry”) is a Lambic-style beer blended with raspberries.  Immediately after being brewed, the beer is left in shallow vats open to the outside air, where it is fermented by a variety of “wild” yeasts floating in the breezes of Vlezenbeek, Belgium.  This raspberry delight pours pink with a lovely fuchsia head.  Put your nose in the glass and you are greeted with the sweet smell of fresh raspberries.  Take a sip and this beer simply sparkles on your tongue, delivering a perfect balance of tart and sweet raspberry goodness.  Lindemans Framboise has and ABV of 2.5%, which makes it easy to enjoy on a hot August day without getting bogged down.  Its sweet nature also makes it a great choice for having after a meal, especially when paired with a decadent chocolate dessert.

These are just a handful of the wonderful fruit-infused beers that taste great this time of year.  Depending on where you live, there are many other great options waiting for you as well. Like the fruits that fill their bottles, these beers have a season, and these sweet and tart gems are slowly beginning to disappear, hurried off the shelves by the pumpkin beers of fall.  Get ‘em while the sun is shining.

Craft beer is a regional phenomenon, so tell us in the comments where you’re from and what fruit-infused goodies are ripe for the taking in your neck of the woods! 

Jim Galligan is co-founder of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog, where he and his brother Don cover the ever-evolving world of craft beer and distilled spirits. Follow him on Twitter. 

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