Fruits have been used to flavor beers for centuries, so as a result, nearly every style style of beer has been infused or brewed with fruit. Most famous are the Belgian lambics, but stouts, pale ales and IPAs sometimes include fruits in various stages of the brew process, or are may be aged on fruit or in fruit barrels. Seasonal beers, particularly in the spring and fall, often include fruit.
“Fruit flavor in beer can range from subtle to intense but must harmonize with the base beer. The quality of the flavor needs to be authentic and duplicate the true fruit complexity,” said Tonya Cornett, whose Ching Ching hibiscus beer last year won World Beer Cup gold while she was brewing for the Bend Brewing Company.
Which fruits are used in fruit beers? Cherry, raspberry and peach are common, but pineapple, lemon might be found in warmer climes, but in Oregon, apricots, plums, apples, pumpkins and many others are used in Oregon, thanks to the ready availability of fresh produce. It might be shorter to list which fruits have not been added to beers.
Last month, about 20 enthusiastic consumer tasters gathered at Portland U-Brew to participate in the Oregon Beer Growler’s monthly Perfect Pints tasting. Most of the tasters were also at the Portland home brew, u-brew and pub business to participate in a brew workshop the same day.
Following are the Oregon fruit beers the Portland U-Brew tasters chose as their favorite fruit beers, in alphabetical order:
Buckman Botanical Brewery Apple Beer – 8% ABV, 25 IBUs
Fruity and subtly sweet with a slightly bitter backbone. Finishes with a clean, lingering tartness from the fresh apple juice. Golden delicious and gala apples, 2-row malt, Cascade and Sterling hops and Belgian Abbey yeast. “Tastes like apple champagne,” said another. “Ah, springtime in the Alps,” mused one taster. “Makes me want to square dance and throw a Frisbee!”
Flat Tail 5 Loco – 7.5% ABV, XX IBUs
This brew begins with a raw wheat cream ale base into which boysenberry, black cherry and blackberry are fermented in the secondary along with Meyer lemon, key lime and African koala nut, which ads about 175 mg of caffeine to the buzz. “Like pink, fluffy clouds,” mused one taster. “Watermelon sunshine,” said another. “Is it sparkling wine?” asked another.
Vertigo Apricot Cream Ale – 4.8% ABV, 11 IBUs
This light crisp summer ale is based on Vertigo’s Cyclone Cream Ale. Brewed with Pale and Crystal malts, it is balanced with late additions of Saaz and Mt. Hood hops, and finished with a hint of apricot. “There’s fruit in the attic and it’s haunting me,” said one taster. “Springtime feeling,” said another, who thought of pairing it with a good tuna fish sandwich. “Great summer beer. Peaches? Mangos?” “Wonderful drink for a hot summer day.”
Ninkasi Vanilla Oatis – 7.2% ABV, 50 IBUs
The vanilla bean’s fruit was added to Ninkasi’s popular oatmeal stout creating a brew with a blend of roasted ad chocolate flavors, smoothed by oats. The whole vanilla beans (yes, vanilla is a fruit!) add a rich complexity to this traditional stout. “Tall, dark and handsome,” said one taster. “Great wake-up substitute for chocolate coffee. Drink with strawberries,” suggested another. “Dark and delicious,” raved one. “It’s my favorite kind of beer.”
Burnside Sweet Heat – 4.8% ABV, 9 IBUs
This unfiltered wheat beer with added apricots was dry hopped with added imported Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers. Described on the bottle as reminiscent of Caribbean chutney, Sweet Heat has a subtle tartness from the fruit and a slight spiciness from the peppers. “I like spicy,” declared one fan. “Spicy chili … it needs a burger,” said another. “Taste that fire,” said a taster. You feel the heat in your belly,” said another.
Lompoc Cherry Wheat –5.0% ABV, XX IBU
A wheat ale brewed in August 2011 with 200 pounds of sour cherries and then aged in Maryhill Winery Port barrels for 2 months. It has a slight oak aroma with a crisp cherry flavor, finishing slightly tart.
Portland U-Brew Peach Phuz – 5.8% ABV, 23 IBU
This wheat brew is a light spring seasonal is made with North American 2-Row, White Wheat Malt, Northern Brewer Hops and 2 1/2 pounds of peach puree. It was fermented with traditional germ wheat yeast that produces a blend of esters and phenolics. “The perfect beer for the homebrewing“Peachy keen!” said one taster. “This gets better the more I drink,” said another. “I’d like to drink this while I’m eating a steak.”
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.