Craving Warmer Days & Fruity Beers

Patio Sippers

I think many people would agree that we have experienced a tough winter this year in Alberta. With the record snowfalls and consistently frigid temperatures, it could be expected that people are longing for hot temperatures and craving summertime drinks on a sunny rooftop patio. Though there are many beer styles that would be suitable for warm weather patio sipping, there are few categories that invoke visions of summertime quite like fruit beers.

Fruit beers are as vast and varied as the different varieties of fruit that exist from the far-reaching corners of the world. By now, people have pretty much tried to make a beer with every kind of fruit out there—sometimes successfully, and at other times very much unsuccessfully. It is not always as simple as merely throwing a bunch of fruit into a beer, although in some cases, it is just that simple. In other instances, the brewing (or fruiting) techniques are far more technical, and even verge on being just a little bit magical.

In its simplest form, a fruit beer is just that: a beer with fruit added—either by adding fruit extract, fruit juice, or perhaps simply fruit flavouring. Now, in this case, simple doesn’t necessarily mean “simplistic” in terms of flavour or even quality, although it is true that some of the lesser examples can be a bit overwhelming with a lingering or even cloying sweetness. There are many beers available in our market that are excellent examples of the style and feature fresh fruit flavour without overpowering the underlying malt character that forms the backbone of the beer—a true sign of a wonderfully crafted fruit beer in my humble opinion.

Edmonton’s Alleykat Brewing Company has, for years now, been producing an excellent example of a fruited beer that expertly expresses its fruit character without losing the focus of the fact that it is a beer first. Aprikat (CSPC 901108) is an American Style Wheat Ale with added natural apricot extract. It is able to find balance between fruit and malt and is crisp and refreshing without letting sweetness take over.

Another style of fruited beers that has been gaining popularity lately is Radlers. A Radler, in Bavaria, refers to a cyclist—and the beer style that shares this name could indeed be enjoyed by a cyclist. It is generally a lighter beer that is made up of at least 50% fruit juice–often grapefruit or even lemonade–thus it’s very low in alcohol and very refreshing. Many breweries have been releasing Radlers in recent years, especially as a summer seasonal. Two excellent examples from the “old world” are Schöfferhofer Grapefruit Radler (cspc 763946) and Stiegl Grapefruit Radler (cspc 334052). The Schöfferhofer Radler is based on a filtered German Wheat Ale, while the Stiegl Radler features a light German-Style Lager base. Both feature grapefruit juice, are very refreshing, and the low alcohol levels will allow you to get home without crashing your bicycle.

Another category of beer that commonly features fruit additions is sour beer. Sours are very popular these days, with many craft breweries trying their hand at the various iterations of the style, but for those new to sour beers, the whole sour moniker can be a bit off-putting. By no means does sour refer to a bad or infected beer. Instead, one could think of a sour beer as being tart and refreshing, like a lovely lemonade. What could possibly represent summertime better than that?

Belgian Lambic beers are sour beers that often feature fruit. Rather than adding fruit extracts or artificial flavourings, the classic examples of the style are often fermented or conditioned with whole fruit added directly to the wooden casks. Cherries (Kriek) and Raspberries (Framboise) are common choices for fruited Lambic beers; the fruit element often rounding out the sourness of the beer. Though the fruit does add a subtle sweetness to the beer, it also adds a complementary tartness from the fruit. Belgian Breweries Boon and Oud Beersel are two Lambic producers who have been producing their sour ales in the traditional manner for decades. Boon Framboise (CSPC 720909) And Oud Beersel Kriek (CSPC 763149) are both excellent examples of the style where the fruit adds a refreshingly tart complexity rather than outright sweetness.

Whether you prefer your fruit beers sweet and juicy, or tart and refreshing, there is likely a fruit beer out there to suit most palates. Even though warm weather may still seem far out of reach, it may be a great time to start thinking of those warm afternoons on a patio, sipping on a delicious fruit beer.