By Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns
This month, a young man’s fancy turns to fruit. Fruit beer, that is. For those who thought fruit beers are just another entry-level medium aimed at pleasing the ladies, think again. Better yet, see for yourself by attending one of Portland’s favorite specialty beer festivals, aptly named the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, June 6 to 8 at Burnside Brewing Company. Although you’ll find a healthy dose of female patrons at that venue, the majority of those attending will be men – men seeking the exotic, sour, light, barrel-aged, crisp or refreshing brews that make up the variety of fruit beers. Fruit beers are the new geek beers. Women loved them first because we were not bound by manly stereotypes about beer. Men are just now catching on, and taking over.
It’s only natural that Oregon, home to more different kinds of fruit crops than any other state, should be home to so many fruit beers.
To whet Portland’s appetite for fruit beers, the Oregon Beer Growler’s monthly consumer tasting featured fruit beers, seven of which are listed here.
As are all the tastings, this fruit beer tasting hosted by EastBurn in Portland was a blind, random tasting. Only consumers are allowed to participate. Consumers list their positive impressions, which may range from imagined food pairings to fanciful situations. Consumer comments on the beers are listed below:
Vertigo Tropical Key Lime Blonde Ale, Hillsboro 5.1 % ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is our summer seasonal – a light, crisp beer with a key lime tropical flavor.
Consumer Description: “Good for drinking on a very hot day in a very cold glass.” “A great way to start the day, tart start, smooth race car finish.” “A hot day floating down the river, a sunny day on the deck, a Caribbean sail, pirate verse.” “I think about fields of wheat with no trees in sight.”
Old Market Dilution of Grandeur, Portland 8.5% ABV, 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Raspberries, blackberries, black currants and boysenberries add tart, fruity depth to the pilsner, wheat, flaked wheat, Vienna, Munich, flaked oats and acidulated malt. Spontaneous fermentation and barrel aging create a Lactobacillus-soured wort and an amazingly dry finish for a very big beer. Modest amounts of Willamette hops keep the bitterness to a minimum.
Consumer Comments: “I’m in a dimly-lit basement with a basket of berries on a shelf.” “Very, very pretty and very, very tasty without being a sweet fruit beer.” “Sunshine on raspberry leaves.” “Would be beautiful paired with a rich dessert like cheesecake.” “Refreshing, patriot farmer, America the beautiful.” “I’m picking berries, marionberry.” “Share a sip with strawberry short cake.” “Tarty explosion, strawberry wine, 17, hot July moon.”
Coalition Space Fruit, Portland 5.4%, ABV, 40 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This very special spring seasonal is a West Coast IPA infused with hundreds of pounds of fresh citrus zest and juice, creating a unique and awesome beer to celebrate spring’s bounty!
Consumer Comments: “I have a passion for fruit and hops.” “Really good hoppiness but not heavy … unforgettable.” “Under a tin roof on a hot summer day with a thunder storm brewing.” “Citrus orchards in Florida under the sun.” “Spain early evening sunset.” “I would buy this for Doc from Cannery Row.” “A guy’s fruit beer.” “A bar lined with young drinkers speaking in friendly tones.”
Fearless Peaches and Cream, Estacada 4.5% ABV, 15 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Light-colored and light-bodied cream ale with peaches. Low alcohol, thirst-quenching beer. Delicately hopped with Perle and Saaz. This one will remind you of a steam beer or a premium macro brew, but brewed with the care and love of a micro. Available in 16-ounce cans.
Consumer Comments: “A candy shop along a beach boardwalk, early fall, smells pleasantly like pears.” “Someone crossed peaches with barley and it is awesome.” “Would work beautifully paired with grilled lamb.” “Hayfield ride, summer jazz, mama’s perfume.” “Fruity, sweet, elegant bouquet of spring swill.” “Yummy tropical explosion.” “Tastes like those white/orange candies that were blocks wrapped in clear plastic. Grandma’s potpourri.”
Widmer Brothers Up from San Antone, Portland 6.8 ABV
Brewer’s Description: A collaboration with a new brewery, 5 Stones, in San Antonio.
This white IPA was brewed with 100 lbs of fresh grapefruit shipped from Texas as an homage to San Antonio, the hometown of 5 Stones.
Consumer Comments: “It’s a greyhound!” “Light like a summer night breeze.” “On the porch swing kind of beer.” “My dad peeling grapefruits, grapefruit with my bacon and eggs.” “Florida sunshine.” “I’d place bets there is black pepper or juniper in here.” “Would make a good side beer to a bloody mary.” “The right mixologist could make a kick ass beer cocktail with it.”
Ambacht Pie Cherry Dark Farmhouse Ale, Hillsboro 6.5% ABV
Brewer’s Description: Our Dark Ale was infused with whole Montmorency pie cherries from Yamhill during the secondary fermentation. Dark in color, this ale’s smooth dry finish makes it light on the tongue. The aroma has hints of cherries as well as almonds. The dark malts bring flavors of chocolate and toast, and the delicately tart pie cherries give this ale a complexity that is intriguing yet satisfying. A seasonal beer made when the cherries are ripe!
Consumer Comments: “The waning hours of a party that consisted of good conversation.” “Very pleasant.” “A bit of brown sugar. “Is it barrel-aged?” “Not a warm weather fruit beer. Drink it when it’s cooler; maybe with a cigar.” “Chocolate and cherries.” “Would be great as an aperitif or paired with cured meat and cheese.” “Dark, smooth, finishing hint of chocolate and fruit.” “Old man with cigars, confused in Belgium.”
Burnside Sweet Heat, Portland 4.9 % ABV, 9 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A wheat ale with an addition of 200 pounds of Apricot puree, then dry hopped with imported Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers. Reminiscent of a Caribbean chutney, Sweet Heat has a subtle tartness from the fruit with a slight spiciness from the peppers which also adds a fruitiness to the aroma.
Consumer Comments: “It grabbed my molars and hung on for the ride.” “Kick in the pants with a waft of stink.” “My favorite out of all of them.” “I want to culminate this one with Hemmingway.” “Definitely a chili pepper beer.” “Would be good next to or as part of a bloody Mary.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.