Do you consider a Fruit Beer to be a ‘real’ beer? Ever tried a Cherry Stout or an Apricot Wheat? Read on to find out…
- 20. Fruit Beer
First we will cover the history of the category, then take a look at the specifications of each style highlighting the similarities and differences. We then sample commercial examples of each style.
Fruits have been used in beers to provide additional aromas, flavors and as a source of fermentable sugars for centuries. Some beers that contain fruit include Fruit Lambics and are covered under specific BJCP beer styles.
For some fruit beers the fruit is added in the mash, or to the boil, whilst in other beers the fruit may be added to the secondary fermentation to impart different characteristics to the beer e.g. whilst ageing in oak barrels. Certain fruit beers are produced seasonally depending on when the crop of the specific fruit is ready for harvesting.
According to Jamil Zainasheff in his book, Brewing Classic Styles, this should be a beer with the distinctive flavor and aroma of fruit well integrated with the beer character.
The following table* shows the characteristics of one style of Fruit Beer:
|Original Gravity:||Varies with base style|
|Final Gravity:||Varies with base style|
|ABV (alcohol %):||Varies with base style|
|IBU’s (bitterness):||Varies with base style|
|SRM (color):||Varies with base style|
The above table shows that there are no specific guidelines as to a Fruit Beer’s characteristics more that those of the underlying style apply to the beer e.g. Ithaca Apricot Wheat is based upon an American Wheat so the characteristics of an American Wheat should be applied to this beer.
In the following sections we will look in more detail at each of the above Beer Styles.
Commercial examples of this style include New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart, Dogfish Head Aprihop, Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale, Founders Rübæus, Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale, Stiegl Radler, Weyerbacher Raspberry Imperial Stout, Abita Purple Haze, Melbourne Apricot Beer and Strawberry Beer, Saxer Lemon Lager, Magic Hat #9, Grozet Gooseberry and Wheat Ale, Pyramid Apricot Ale, and Dogfish Head Fort. We decided to sample Bell’s Cherry Stout and Ithaca Apricot Wheat.
Bell’s Cherry Stout has the following characteristic which using the assumption that the base beer is an American Stout then it is at the top of the style for alcohol content:
- ABV = 7.0%
This beer is opaque black in color with a tan head that does not last. A cocoa cherry aroma. An alcohol and tart cherry flavor with a bitter cocoa after-taste. Low carbonation with a slick mouth-feel.
Ithaca Apricot Wheat has the following characteristic which using the assumption that the base beer is an American Wheat is within style for alcohol content:
- ABV = 4.9%
This beer is light golden in color with a white head. Apricot fruit aroma and flavor. Moderate carbonation with a clean dry finish.
Our next article will look at BJCP Category 21, ‘Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer‘, where we will examine the two styles making up this category.
If you have any questions or comments about this article, please do not hesitate to contribute to the discussion below.
* Beer Styles’ data is courtesy of BJCP.org.