Here in the upper midwest we love the summer season for so many different reasons but two of the big reasons I love summer are fresh produce and being outside with a beer in my hand. Sometimes, when I’m spending the day in the hot sun, bringing both together with a refreshing beer brewed with fresh fruit can not only quench my thirst quite well but often serves as a way to give my palate a break from all the bright and bitter hops that are usually part of my summer sippers. Not all fruit beers are equal and I’ve certainly had more than one overly sweet fruit bomb that was so loaded with syrupy sweet fruit that I could hardly finish a single beer. This week I decided to recommend a few fruit beers that I find myself grabbing when I want to experience something a little different than the beer I would usually gravitate towards. Each is different than the next but most are beers I frequently recommend to customers looking for a new fruit beer to try. All of the beers I will be mentioning this week are 5% ABV or below and therefore considered “session beers” which also makes them great options for alternating between waters on long days in the hot sun.
Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen - This fruity Hefeweizen pours a light, pale yellow-orange, and is slightly hazy but not as hazy as most hefes. Right away you get a bold apricot nose and the mouth is full of apricot flavor that melds well with the Bavarian yeast used in the hefe style. It still has the slight tartness that is typical of hefeweizens but the fruit follows all the way through the crisp finish. This beer was a GABF Bronze medal winner in 2014 and 2016.
New Belgium Watermelon Lime ale - Looking more like a standard ale than a fruit beer, this one pours a pale golden color with very little or no fruit on the nose but a slight biscuit aroma and perhaps a touch of fresh cut grass with a tiny hint of lime. The fruit in this beer is present but barely there. Watermelon can be a very difficult flavor to work with and it comes across as somewhat underdone in this beer. The lime does come through but is not at all aggressive. This beer would be perfect for hot summer days when you want something refreshing but the experience of being outside and having fun in the sun is more important than the beer you are drinking. It’s not a bad beer, there’s just not a whole lot going on.
Dark Horse Raspberry Ale - Dark Horse approaches a fruit beer in a different way with their Raspberry Ale. A beer first, fruit second concept is delivered with a crisp golden ale that they add fresh raspberry to rather than brewing the fruit into the beer. It pours slightly hazy and starts out appearing golden but then quickly turns to a hazy orangish red color but is certainly not as pink as most raspberry beers I’ve had. The head is small and disappears fairly quickly but tiny bubbles continue to surface. There is not much fruit on the nose at all but the beer isn’t meant to be fruit forward. In the glass, you taste a nice semi-sweet golden ale with a slightly tart raspberry finish. Seems to me the crew at Dark Horse achieved exactly what they set out to accomplish with this beer for fans of beer first, fruit second.
Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale - Samuel Smith Brewery started in 1758, reopened in 1886 and is one of the oldest names in brewing. The second you pop the cap on their Organic Strawberry Ale your nose is overwhelmed with fresh strawberry aroma that makes you feel like a thick red puree is about to pour out of the bottle. It pours a nice light red color with a big thick head that shoves more and more strawberry up your nose. The very first taste is like strawberry jam, strawberry fruit juice, or strawberry puree and with each taste thereafter the intensity of strawberry seems to build in a way that will almost make you giggle and laugh gleefully. “Whoa!”, “Wow”, and “Holy strawberries!” are all things I’ve either said myself or heard others say when tasting this fruit bomb of a beer. It’s hard to believe there is any alcohol in it at all but it does come in at 5.1% ABV so don’t go downing it like a Snapple, no matter how tempting or easy it may be to do so. This beer is only available in single bottles so you may have to find a store with a variety of bombers or single beers.
Grain Belt Blu - Originally brewed by August Schell’s exclusively for the 2014 and 2015 Minnesota State Fairs, last year saw the first release outside the fairgrounds and this year it is back in our local market again. It pours slightly hazy with a blue to purple hue. Not quite as fruity or syrupy as your grandma’s blueberry pie, this beer is light and crisp enough to pair with fried cheese curds and has enough fresh blueberry flavor to go excellently with a fried candy bar on a stick. Finish is fairly sweet but not overly cloying and while I wouldn’t say it’s a fully crisp finish, it is pretty easy to finish a full pint glass. This beer is only available on tap so you will have to sit down to your favorite watering hole or find it at one of a few select liquor stores with Growler Stations to take it home in a growler to go.
June 20th 2018
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