Fruit-Infused Beer tasting

We sample four brews bursting with fruit flavor.

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Having tasted a range of fruit-infused craft beers that ranged from cough-syrupy concoctions to wonderful fresh flavors, I decided to purchase a few varieties and invite a male and female friend to join in the tasting. (My taster friends do not generally like fruit beers but were willing to play along.)

My chosen four for this sampling were: Strawberry Harvest Lager, Orange Blossom Cream Ale, Pomegranate Wheat Organic Ale and Cherry Wheat Ale. Our tasting notes:

Craft Brews - Fruit Flavors

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
by Abita Brewing (Abita Springs, LA) 4.2% ABV

Joins the flagship staple, Abita Purple Haze (infused with raspberry puree during the brewing process), but the difference is definitely in the taste. Strawberry Harvest is brewed with Louisiana strawberries (not puree) and has a distinct, earthy, seed-like taste, in addition to the essence of strawberry. From the first sip, you'll notice that the taste is decidedly different from other fruit beers (including blueberry, apricot, peach, passion fruit and others), in that the pectin seeds come through in the strawberry flavor (not syrupy). My taster friends described this beer as "soda pop-like, creamy and tart." Of the four, this is my favorite, and one that I will buy several times again before the "season" is out.

Orange Blossom Cream Ale by Buffalo Bill's Brewery (Hayward, CA) - 5.2% ABV

While this was not a favorite of mine, my taster friends ranked this one as their top picks.

Crisp, woodsy, outdoorsy floral flavor that rolls on the tongue, but has a pungent, yeasty smell. Of the four, this beer had the mildest citrus flavor. The flavor was creamy and had a hint of fresh tangerines.

Pomegranate Wheat Organic Ale (with acai berry) by Peak Brewing (Portland, ME) - 5.9% ABV

This brew grows on you, with the first taste having strong notes of acai berries (promoted for their immune boosting and weight loss inducing properties), followed by light notes of pomegranate. I wasn't sure what to think of it. Since first tasting this brew a few weeks ago, I've grown to enjoy it as a light evening brew, but my taster friends were not as kind. I found it to be a complex brew with a taste that lingered and changed after the first swallow, but they said it was too weird to ever be a popular beer.

Sam Adam's Cherry Wheat by Boston Beer Company (Boston, Mass) - 5.2% ABV.

Several breweries have a distinctive taste that comes through in the majority of their brews (for example, Stone Brewing, Cigar City Brewing and Ommegang), and Sam Adams is one of these breweries. While I prefer Cherry Wheat on tap, primarily at airports when I am away on travel, the Sam Adams yeasty flavor comes through in the bottle almost as well. My taster friends did not like Cherry Wheat at all, saying it was their least favorite of the four, and remarking that it was simply too heavy on the Cherry flavor and not enough on the beer flavor. If you like Sam Adams Boston Lager and want to try a fruit beer, I'd recommend this one. Friends I've introduced it to either seem to love it or hate it; not many are neutral on this brew.

Other breweries entertaining (and having success) with fruit beers include Dogfish Head (peche seasonal and apricot beer are staples), Sea Dog Brewing (raspberry, apricot and blueberry ales), Sam Adams (Blackberry Whitbier), Hurricane Reef (raspberry wheat), Leinenkugal (Berry Weiss) and even Michelob (their Ultra 95 calorie series includes pomegranate raspberry, lime cactus and dragon fruit peach varieties).

What is your take on "fruity" beers? Are beers brewed with fruit here to stay, or are they a fad? What fruit infused, brewed, additive beers have you tasted?

click to enlarge Fruit infused beer tasting - Carol Dekkers
Carol Dekkers
Fruit infused beer tasting

While opinions vary about beer brewed with ingredients beyond those permitted under the (now obsolete) Bavarian purity law (barley malt, hops, yeast and water), the debate gets heated when beers brewed with fruit enter the fray.

Purists aside, many craft brews today include an infusion of floral, fruit, coffee or other ingredients. Yet, many will wince when presented with a beer that contains anything "fruity" in its name. These brews that overtly involve fruit are often labelled "beer for girls," (I do not agree with that label) and earn reviews ranging from outright disdain to sneers to "it really wasn't that bad."

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