Summer beers can be a challenge these days. While American beer tastes have pushed brewers to hugely hopped IPAs, dynamically flavored sours, and Russian imperial stouts too boozy to be considered beer in Russia, for most beer drinkers none of these categories speaks to warm weather refreshment. What is a beer lover to serve at debt ceiling parties? In part one of this series we spoke of shandy, and that is a tasty option. If you want something more complex, with more body and bigger flavors, another great option is one of the delicious fruit beers available this season. Not well versed in this style, the team at The Barley Whine taste a few of the best of Midwestern brewers’ fruit beers.
The first beer is a strawberry beer from Brau Brothers, a brewery founded in 2006 in Minnesota. Strawberry Wheat poured pale gold with hints of strawberry in the nose, and very low carbonation creating almost no head.
Brewer: Brau Brothers
Beer: Strawberry Wheat
Dave: Strawberry aroma. Some sweet berry flavor, very weak. No real wheat presence. Lawn mowing beer 6.5/10
Steve: Some red fruit nose. Taste is like a German lager with hints of berries. No notable malt backbone or wheat elements. No hint of booze no hops in the clean, dry finish. Go big or go home 6.0/10
Rich: Flat. Reminiscent of 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon, but with less fruit flavor. Highly sessionable, but bland 5.0/10
Beer number two is our first tasting from a brewer famous for their fruit beers: New Glarus. A bit different from the other, red-berry flavored entrants, Apple Ale comes from the ‘Unplugged Series’; a very limited edition of a beer offering ” no promises to ever brew this style again”. Super rare does not make a beer good however. This guy poured a medium copper color with sufficient carbonation. The complexity takes a few sips to take in, but it is well worth the investment in time to take in what is offered here. To the beer notes:
Brewer: New Glarus
Beer: Apple Ale
Dave: Apple cider nose and flavor. Nummy. Some sourness, more acidity than the Strawberry Wheat. Prickly carbonation. A tad sweet. Finish of apple sauce 8.5/10
Steve: The smell is of sour apples. Tastes of apple cider with bubbles. A complex medley of sweet and sour apple. Sweet malts in the finish with a bit of spice (cinnamon?) 9.0/10
Rich: Sour apple aroma. Very sweet for beer, but better than a cider. Started out tasting like sparkling cider but grew in complexity 6.0/10
Our third brew, is also from New Glarus but is available year round. With their in-state only distribution however, the real challenge is getting someone in Wisconsin to bring you one. We found it to be well worth the effort however. Pouring a red-orange color Raspberry Tart forms a modest white head that is slow to dissipate. Our thoughts:
Brewer: New Glarus
Beer: Raspberry Tart
Dave: Berries on the nose. Sweet raspberry flavor. A nice tart note. Acidic finish 9.0/10
Steve: A lot of sweetness to start off, followed by a nice tart/acidic balance and some sweet malts. Really tastes like raspberry! So much sugar and acid it is less sessionable than the Apple Ale. 8.5/10
Rich: Quite sweet, with a tart finish. Very drinkable 8.0/10
The final beer being tasted is another limited release, this time from Founder’s Brewing Company Blushing Monk is the first in a large bottle series of small batch runs. This beer was brewed once before, in 2009, to very positive reviews. Our sample was reddish/purple like grape juice. A minimal white/purple head fades away instantly, like Charlie Sheen fanaticism. This beer uses a lot of fresh raspberries. A LOT.
Beer: Blushing Monk
Dave: Very red color. Sweet berries with red bug juice nose. Massive sweet fruit, with raspberries, underpinned by some vegetal/herbal hop note. Tart. Good carbonation. Palate-coating, with a slight booze note. A nice tart note. Acidic finish /8.5/10
Steve: Huge fruit juice, raspberry scents. Sweet-tart notes at the start with great carbonation. A pilsner-like hoppy finish with some boozy heat. Big raspberry flavor throughout, with some citrus/tartness. Quite good but would want to share the big bottle with a friend. 8.5/10
Rich: A very sweet taste with unmistakable raspberry flavor. Boozy finish. Less sessionable than the Raspberry Tart. 7.0/10
Fruit beers are generally low alcohol brews, with a balanced mix of sweetness, tartness, and acidity: Except when they are Blushing Monk. Overall, we enjoyed each of these in it’s own way, only the Strawberry Wheat under-delivered. The Apple Ale was perhaps the most quafable. What these brews do best is take the fresh fruit local to the brewer and capture that flavor within a delicious beer that has more body and complexity than a spiked juice or cider. Any of the four we reviewed, or most any reputable brewer’s fruit beers, make a great alternative to the sundry selection of cloudy wheat beers that crop up each summer. It’ll make you want to jump, jump
2 responses to “What to Drink This Summer Part 2: Fruit Beers”
Blushing Monk sounds pretty good. I wish I could get Founders down here in TX. Not that I would ever presume to tell the b-whiners what to drink, but Abita’s Strawberry Harvest is lovely on a hot summer day.
Founders does good stuff. We’ll take a look for the Abita. I think they still have distribution here. If you get Samuel Smiths look for their organic fruit beers; good stuff. Thanks for the comment.