On a recent walk through of the fermentation cellar at Arizona Wilderness, a brewery in Gilbert, Arizona, a visitor had to walk around huge crates of locally picked grapefruit that was waiting to be zested by the staff. Within hours the whole room was going to be filled with a lively citrus aroma and the zest would be added to a gose that was idling in fermenters.
The idea of adding fruit to beer is nothing new. In Belgium there are lambics fruited with peach or raspberry, and krieks are made with cherries. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries have long been common in summer ales, both as ingredients and as garnish.
For many breweries, there is a nod towards local, giving customers a taste of something familiar to forge a deeper connection. Others have searched international markets for fruit, like dragon fruit and yuzu, to add to their sour ales, while some just head to the grocery store to pick up bananas to add to stouts.
Fruit beers in particular have a way of bringing a diverse group of drinkers to a glass.
There are all manner of ways to get fruit into a beer. Fresh is best, but processing can be laborious, especially for larger breweries. So many have turned to fruit purée companies that deliver totes of processed fruits that can be added to fermenters. Still, others find better living through chemistry and add flavored syrups to a finished beer.
Gose, blonde ales and light sour ales seem to be among the favorite styles for brewers to fruit up, but IPAs, especially ones that use hops that have tropical fruit aromas, also get dosed. The key to fruit beers, however, is to still be able to taste the beer among the tree or vine ripened additions. Otherwise it’s just juice.
As I was working on these reviews my mother-in-law was at our house and, bless her heart, she called the array of fruit beers on the table “ladies beers.” I couldn’t have disagreed more. Not only are all beer styles for everyone, but fruit beers in particular have a way of bringing a diverse group of drinkers to a glass.
Area Two Black Raspberry; $15/375 ml, 96 points. This deep purple ale has a rouge foam that rings the edge of the glass, which is enough of a reason to buy this beer—it’s mesmerizing to look at. The blackberry in this lambic, created by Area Two, a sour project by the brewery, is the star of the show and shows off all the versatility of the fruit. It’s tart and sweet, assertive yet subdued. With mellow acidity and a dusting of chocolate, it’s slightly thick and jammy. It’s a beer that is made by years of honing a skill, not just a lucky one-time batch.
Crane Guava Weiss; $13/12 oz 4 pack, 96 points. It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of this beer. It’s slightly salty and slightly acidic, with a soft touch of guava, but it all comes together in a funky and tart package that releases tangerine, warm pineapple and kiwi tones.
Creature Comforts Athena Paradiso Berliner Weisse; $13/12 oz 6 pack, 95 points. A trio of fruits—cherry, cranberry and raspberry—lend not only a rich pink color to the beer, but create a layered complexity of tart and sweet, dry and juicy, and savory but refreshing. It is thin in body, with just a bit of salt, honey malt and a hint of citrus, likely derived from Lactobacillus. Perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Ecliptic Callisto Blackcurrant Tripel; $4/500 ml, 95 points. Showing peppery and spicy notes, this tripel gets an assist from the tannic black currants that not only add to auburn hue of the beer, but also give it a dry finish. Flowery, yeasty flavors and a malt sweetness bring out a just underripe raspberry flavor on the midpalate. Pair with a roasted Cornish hen dinner.
Springdale Coconut Cast Away; $12/500 ml, 95 points. This is a lovely sour ale that offers bright acidity, a hint of lemon citrus and a quality that gets the salivary glands going. At first blush you could think it’s a young beer made by an experienced Belgian brewery, but the reserved coconut note shows up and it shows its American roots. Some breweries might try to hit you over the head with it, but this one teases you. The coconut tone disappears and then reappears, its flavor grows as the beer warms, and a woody character is revealed. Drink one now, but get a second to age. This has promise to delight over time. Drink through 2025.
High Hops Pinkalicious; $12/12 oz 6 pack, 94 points. This beer delivers on the label’s promise. It offers a garden-fresh flavor of raspberry (the fruit that gives it a dark pink hue) and an appealing herbtone of lemon verbena. It’s more than two notes, however. There’s also a hint of vanilla, a little bit of pineapple and even a splash of peppery spice. Pick some herbs and greens from the garden, make a salad and use a dash of this to make a vinaigrette. Save the rest for your glass.
Stone Buenaveza Salt & Lime Lager; $11/12 oz 6 pack, 94 points. This lager tastes like salty tortillas with a hint of lime. The green citrus is light, and the salt has this lager headed into gose territory but still manages to keep the refreshing lager qualities. Poolside, beachfront or just when the occasion calls for dreaming about such locales, this beer will get you in the right mood. Plus, it has a great can design seemingly inspired by Día de Muertos.
Two Roads Peach Jam; $12/12 oz 6 pack, 93 points. When a beer comes along well packed with fruit, but actually tastes like fruit and not a candy imitator, its one to stop and savor. This is one such ale. The wheat base gives it some body. It’s brewed with hibiscus that dries it out, but the star of the show is grove fresh peaches that is refreshing, cooling, and just sweet enough to keep the palate clean.
Arbor Brewing Trail Lyte Raspberry; $10/12 oz 6 pack, 92 points. While the brewery says it was made with raspberry (there’s even a little cartoon of a berry with a hiking pack and walking stick on the can) it presents more like pomegranate, lime and green strawberry. Its color is a pretty deep watermelon, with an effervescent carbonation and a light body. It’s a refreshing mid-afternoon garden beer that has a tannic quality that keeps the palate interested and a dry finish that encourages opening another can.