There was a time not too long ago when I cringed at the sight of a raspberry wheat or berry blonde beer. I thought these beers were too dainty, too affected—and frankly, not worth my money.
However, I’ve changed my tune in recent years—and I am not alone.
Let’s look at just one beer category, flavored IPAs, for evidence. In 2015, sales of “tropical-flavored” IPA increased by 250 percent, according information presented to the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia in May 2016. According to market-research firm Mintel, in 2010, 15 percent of new beers introduced were flavored. In 2015, 27 percent of beers to come onto the market were flavored.
But fruit has not been relegated to just IPAs. Brewers are also infusing pale ales, saisons and even stouts with fruit from the farm—grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes and so on.
Take San Diego brewer Ballast Point’s Pineapple Sculpin, for example. Since Ballast Point’s purchase by Constellation, this beer and its relatives—Habanero Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin, introduced in 2014—are more widely available. This is a very good thing.
Some of these juicy new beers have come about thanks to experimental hops with aromatic qualities, which pair better with fruits. Brewers are also developing styles that are better able to carry the fruit flavors. As fruit beers have gotten better, they’ve not only won over some hard-core beer-drinkers like me; they’ve brought more non-traditional beer-drinkers into the craft-beer world.
Take New Belgium’s Citradelic Tangerine IPA, launched in January 2016, as another example of a popular, widely available fruit-forward beer. The sweet, tangy orange character intertwines nicely with the hops—including Citra, citrusy Mandarina Bavaria, tropical Azzaca and fruity Galaxy hops. On top of all this, the brewers add tangerine-infused orange peel to the brew.
Coachella Valley Brewing Co. is the local brewer that’s been using fruits in its beers the most. CVB’s Chris Anderson is not only an award-winning brewer; he knows his way around a kitchen. He served as executive chef at Moose’s Tooth and Café Europa in Anchorage, and headed culinary operations for the Tatitlek Corporation for seven years.
“I’ve seen more and more brewers using locally grown fruits, and fruits indigenous to their local areas,” Anderson said. “Fruit beer is certainly becoming more popular. It used to be said that it was a ‘chick beer.’ At CVB, we sell a ton of fruit beers and fruited sours to men.”
Anderson said he’s definitely seen fruit beers bring newbies into the craft-beer world.
“Customers are continually looking for variety; brand loyalty is a thing of the past,” Anderson said. “Fruit beers are in the footbridge realm for many non-craft-beer people. These folks might find a banana hefeweizen or passion-fruit farmhouse ale more inviting than a fresh double IPA.”
Hopped-up IPAs often work well with fruit additions, thanks to complementary hops like the lemony Sorachi Ace and the grapefruit-hinted Cascade—but it’s not just IPAs that Anderson likes when it comes to fruit.
“I think just about any beer can work fruited as long as it marries and doesn’t conflict,” he said.
Of course, there is an art to brewing and noting the citrus qualities within hops. Yes, fruit is good, and fruit in beer can be awesome—but adding too much or not understanding thresholds or blending could lead to an awful brew. No fruit, however delicious, can turn an ordinary beer into something super-tasty. But when you start with a great beer, fruit can make it even better—creating perfect sippers for warmer days.