Friday, August 03, 2007
The Session #6: Fruit Beer Bonanza
Greg Clow at Beer, Beats & Bites out of Toronto is the host for The Session #6. After ruminating about the quality of fresh produce at local farmer's markets in his city this summer he came to a topic near and dear to the women in my life: Fruit beer.
I enjoy fruit beer, but my wife, Sandy, and our two daughters love fruit beer. Sandy is not a huge fan of beer bars or brewpubs. However, I know my visit will always last a little longer if they have a framboise or kriek beer available. We've tracked down some classics over the years and some odd ones -- like pineapple and banana. I like fruit beers as a change of pace and consider them to be one of the great side bars to the story of beer. The world is a better place because of brews like New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red, a cherry flavored beer that inspires lines at beer festivals and beer runs to Wisconsin.
From blackberries to passion fruit, brewers are experimenting with fruit beer. Some are subtle and some are full of fruit. Some are sweet and some are tart. There is room for all of these interpretations, but fruit beer drinkers tend to be very opinionated. Unlike the gradations of an IPA that generate friendly conversation, my experience with fruit beer is that it is often a thumbs up or a thumbs down experience. You either love it or are left wondering why the brewer even wasted their time, and while you are thinking that the person next to you has a diametrically opposed opinion. I try to go with the flow and recognize what the brewer was trying to accomplish and understand if they wanted to make a fruit forward beer or if they wanted the fruit to just be one note in the flavor symphony. With that in mind, since learning of the topic for the August edition of the session, I've been on the look out for fruit beers. The following tasting notes were compiled during sessions in Saratoga Springs, Chicago, Atlanta and Charlotte.
Blue Point Blueberry Ale: This golden color brew was enjoyed on draught and had a slight hint of fruit in the nose and the essence of blueberries in a laid back flavor profile. The brewery uses 132 pounds of blueberries per batch.
Dogfish Head Black & Blue: This 10 percent alcohol by volume Belgian-style strong ale is hazy gold in color and uses both blueberries and blackberries. The berry flavors come across very subtly and make this draught an inviting way to spend a summer evening.
Dogfish Head Festina Peche: A Berliner Weisse style summer seasonal this draught is a bit hazy and has a nice peach flavor. It is neither too subtle or overdone. It is right on target and refreshing for a hot late afternoon beer.
Founders Rubaeus: A malty draught with plenty of fresh raspberries. Founders brews Rubaeus adding fresh raspberries at five different stages of the brewing process. The beer's 7.0 percent alcohol by volume is cut nicely by a subtle tartness.
Goose Island Strawberry Gold: This draught (pictured) was cloudy, with a thick head that caught bits of fruit. The strawberry flavor was clearly there, but the beer was not overly sweet. A change of pace from most fruit brews.
La Choulette Framboise Farmhouse Ale: This bottled Biere de Garde from northern France is deep, dark red. The flavor notes of raspberry are there, but this is a dry beer that has hints of roasted barley in the taste profile. If you think some fruit beers are way to over the top and sweet, you need to try this beer.
St. Louis Framboise: From Van Honsebrouck Brewery in Belgium, this lambic is a bright red color and even has a pink head. The initial sweetness is balanced somewhat by a tart kick. A bit on the fizzy soda side for a draught, but refreshing.
Saranac Pomegranate Wheat: I found this brew from Upstate New York to be much more enjoyable on draught than the previous bottled version I had tasted. Golden colored with a slight amber haze, the beer had a light fluffy head and a touch of sweetness. The nose was flowery.
Sea Dog Bluepaw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale: This bottled brew from Maine has a wafting blueberry nose and a crisp golden color. The flavor is a nice balance of good blueberry flavor cut by the wheat beer characteristics.
Sweetwater Blue: This light gold draught ale had a thin head and the aroma of blueberries. The blueberry flavor was in the background on this beer, but clearly present throughout.
Unibroue Ephemere: From Quebec, this 5.5 percent alcohol by volume draught delivered an extremely fresh apple crispness in a golden colored package.