Jul 25, 2012

Fruit Beers, Are they all bad???

OK, lately I’ve been thinking I need to break out of my comfort zone, and stretch my interests and outlooks a bit. In all aspects of my life, not just beer. This however, being a beer blog, I figure I will keep the content to mostly beer related topics.

That being said, there is one area of the beer world I don’t really enjoy, at least I haven’t yet, and that is fruit beer. Now, this may have to do with the sort of philosophical aspect of adding fruit to beer. I am somewhat of a purest with a lot of things. I drink my coffee black, I don’t add sauce to a lot of things etc. I like to taste what I am eating, if I have to pile a ton of crap on top of something, or in something to enjoy it, well, that to me means I don’t like it in the first place, so why bother. Of course, something’s just go better when paired up with something. I mean, I’m not going to sit down and eat a bowl of just pasta. Also, sometimes adding additional flavors or something to whatever it is you are enjoying, makes it all that much more enjoyable. I don’t think anyone would argue vanilla ice cream doesn’t taste good, but add chocolate sauce, or hot fudge, you see what I am getting at.

So, I use to think, if you have to add fruit to beer to make it taste good, then the beer doesn’t taste good to being with, and you should try to make the beer better, without hiding behind some fruit. However, now, I think this is short sighted and frankly a stupid way of thinking. If you can take a great beer, and by adding flavor, whatever that flavor may be, and make it even better, or at least equally enjoyable, I see no harm in that, and fact, only expands our opportunities to enjoy as much out of beer as we can. After I thought about it, I recall having some AMAZING pumpkin flavored beer. Four Peaks Pumpkin Porter and BJ’s Pumpkin Ale come to mind.

So, with a new attitude, and renewed outlook on life (at least small aspects of), I decided to break out of paradigm, and jump into something up until now, had limited and not very good opinions of. So, I grabbed a verity of fruit beers from my local Total Wine, and my wife and I sat down one evening, opened our minds, and prepared to enjoy a verity of fruit beers I had selected. Here are my thoughts on the 6 beers we tried; in the order we tried them.

Orange Blossom Ale, Indian Wells Brewing Company, Inyokern, California (abv ?)

It started off pretty good. Poured it out, looked a sort of golden, hazy, orange color, as one would expect from an orange flavored beer. The smell made me nervous. Kind of smelled like someone poured Sunkist orange soda and cheap beer all over the kitchen floor, and left it there on the hottest day of the year. The taste actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting from the smell. The problem was, there was very little flavor at all. Like someone took the aforementioned Sunkist soda, watered it down 50/50 with tap water, then mixed it with the aforementioned cheap beer at about a 70/30 ratio. Very watery taste, not good, not good at all, OK, NEXT!

Watermelon Ale, from The Phoenix Ale Brewery, Phoenix, AZ (4.8% Abv)

I checked this one out on beer advocate, and was surprised it rated so high. There are limited reviews, by all scored it in the high 3’s, even 4’s (out of 5). I scored it a 2.65. I liked the idea of this beer, I just think the follow through was lacking. Not many flavors at all, some watermelon flavor, but light, which is fine, but there aren’t a lot of other flavors to back it up. Sort of like a light lager, with some watermelon flavor. Pretty unexciting, this tasting is not off to a good start!

Festina Peche, Dogfish Head, Milton De (abv 4.5%)

OK, we’re getting better. This isn’t what you would expect from a typical fruit beer. It’s not “fruity” or overly sweet. In fact, this is more sour, but in a good way. The peach flavor is there, tart and easy to detect, but not pronounced. This is a refreshing beer. I actually liked this one a quite a bit. OK, so maybe these fruit beers aren’t so bad!

Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel Brewing Company Chippewa Falls, WI (abv 4.2%)

If you want to know what this beer tastes like, all you have to do is this. Wash your dishes with some dollar store lemon scented dish soap. When you are down, take the dirty dish water, and mix it say, 60/40 with any cheap beer, doesn’t matter what kind, Bud Light, Molson, Colt 45, something like that. That will give you a pretty good idea of what this abomination tastes like. Now, let me say this, I like Leinenkugels, quite a bit in fact. I have had some great beer by them (Big Eddy RIS is awesome!), but man, what the hell were they thinking? This just might be the second worst beer I have ever tasted (Bud Light Chaldea still holds that dubious distinction). OK, so my faith in Fruit beers has been shaken back to reality.

Wild Raspberry Ale, Great Divide Brewing, Denver Co, ( abv 5.6%)

OK, this one wasn’t too bad. Then again, I could have been drinking 3 day old milk and enjoyed it after that last beer. However, this one was decent, not what I would consider great, but I enjoyed it. It poured a sort of ruby/purple color, which interested me. Smelled like raspberry jam mixed with beer. The taste was good, I was little disappointed it didn’t have a stronger flavor. Both the raspberry and beer flavors were muted, someone lacking. It was an enjoyable beer, but again, not something I would say was great. Very middle of the road.

Wild Blueberry Ale, Sea Dog, Bangor Maine (abv 4.6%)

OK, maybe I am partial to all things Maine (it’s my home state), maybe it’s because blueberries are one of my favorite fruits, or maybe it’s because this one was just good. I enjoyed it. Of all the beers we tried, this one had the most “beer” flavor. This one actually tasted like it was actually brewed WITH blueberries. The rest of them (with the exception of the Festina Peache) tasted like beer that had fruit flavor added as an afterthought. The blueberry was very noticeable, in both the aroma, and the taste. It had a real ripe, fresh quality to it as well. Very enjoyable!

OK, so, what did I learn from this exercise in “life course deviation”?

1.) Its fun and exciting to try new things. I mean, I’m not ready to head to a nude beach, or attend an Art Film Festival, but you know what I mean.

2.) Not all fruit beer is bad!

3.) If the label said “Summer Shandy”, just drink some watery lemon dish soap, and save yourself a hangover.

I can say, with the exception of Summer Shandy, and Orange Blossom, I would drink all these beers again. I may not seek them out, or pay for them, but when handed a Watermelon Ale, or Blueberry Ale, I will gladly accept it with graciousness, and appreciation, and drink it. Its summer, and what better time to enjoy a beer with a little fruit! So, I would suggest, take a little time out of your busy summer schedule, and schedule an evening or two to enjoy one or two fruity beers. You may find one you like!

If you have a fruit beer you like, and you think I might enjoy, by all means, let me know, and I will give it a try. If I can’t get it in Arizona, and you really want me to try one, let me know, I’ll drop you my address, and you can send it to me, and I will happily send you a fine Arizona beer in return for your efforts.

Bottoms up my friends

The Beer Czar


  1. I am also not a fruity beer drinker, but have found that I really enjoy the Raspberry Ale from Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall, MI.

  2. Well done. I have extremely simple tastes as far as beer goes, but I may have to pick up the Wild Blueberry Ale. - Gina

  3. If you mix the Summer Shandy with thier Berry weiss you actually get a not 1/2 bad beer, the berry sweetness is cut by the lemon dishsoap taste.

  4. I’ve made quite a few fruit beers since I started brewing. Some of the beers have been unmitigated successes, other beers, well… But even when I was just starting, I didn’t mind playing around.