Fruit beers are a style of beer that utilizes fruits or fruit extracts in various stages of the brewing process to enhance the flavor. Some breweries add the fruit early in the fermentation process, while others add flavoring extracts at the very end. The earliest fruit beers can be traced back to Belgium and are commonly found as part of the Belgian Lambic variety, a type of beer fermented through an exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria in outside air. This unusual fermentation process gives Belgian Lambics a dry, cidery sweetness with a sour aftertaste. As you can imagine, this flavor lends itself perfectly to fruit combinations. The fruit is traditionally added after the first fermentation; the yeast feeds on the newly added sugars from the fruit, sparking a second fermentation. This second fermentation produces new flavors in the beer and increases the alcohol content.
You may be surprised to find that not all fruit beers are very sweet. The style ranges from juicy and sweet to dry and bitter. As a general rule, the longer the fruit remains in the fermenting process, the more their sweetness diminishes. Beers that have extracts added at the very end tend to be quite sweet, while fruits that have been fermented produce a subtler flavor.
Today, the beers are made with a huge range of fruits, encompassing everything from citrus fruit to berries to stone fruit and beyond. Brewers started out using fruit that was in abundance nearby. In fact, the original intention of adding fruit to beer was not to create fruit beers at all, but simply to experiment with commonly found ingredients. Cherry, raspberry, and peach are some of the most common flavors. If you live in the United States, however, you might be most familiar with pumpkin beers, which have become increasingly popular during the autumn months.
The first of the fruit beers I tried, I was more than pleasantly surprised by Magic Hat #9. The scent implied a strong apricot aroma, yet the flavor was much more subdued. The beer is mild, crisp and dry. The fruit flavor comes through in a distinctively sweet, yet tart, aftertaste. I found it highly refreshing. Not only was this my favorite of the fruit beers I sampled, it’s one of the best beers I’ve tried in some time.
This is what I was expecting when I first heard the term “fruit beer.” Framboise is a traditional Belgian Lambic flavored with raspberries. The flavor is tart and most definitely raspberry, yet an unmistakeable malt essence breaks through. I found it to be heavy on the palette, despite the light body and considerable amount of carbonation. The beer poured a deep, cloudy reddish-purple color, with essentially no head. I enjoyed it, but eventually found the tartness tiresome.
Lindemans Brewery began brewing Lambics in the early 1800s, using fruits and herbs as bittering agents in place of hops. With the Pomme Lambic, apples are introduced into the secondary fermentation, creating a tartly sweet, malty flavor, much like a Granny Smith apple. This beer is pale gold in color, with a slight bubbly head that dissipates quickly. The malts were not quite as distinctive in this as they were in the Framboise, making the Pomme Lambic taste similar to a traditional cider, though, not as sweet.
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