Let’s get this out there right now… fruit beer is not “just for chicks”. Sure, there are brews out there that are super-sweet and marketed towards the female consumer. These tend to be cloying and obnoxious, more of a dessert than a drink, and I am equivocally not a fan. However, there are many fine examples these days, in this era of craft beer explosion, of complex, delicious beers with fruit added to impart a bit of extra flavor… something to separate the beer from a host of other, similar concoctions. Obviously the results are as hit or miss as with any style, but let it be said that brewing with fruit is not automatically a “girly” thing, and it is most certainly here to stay.
Just a few examples of fruit beers that have been around for a while: Magic Hat #9, a pale ale brewed with apricots… Dogfish Head has many, but the Festina Peche, a summery Berliner Weisse with (naturally) peaches added, stands out… and Wisconsin’s New Glarus brews an outstanding Raspberry Tart that is a must-taste for fans of the style. Of course, there are also the numerous Belgian fruit-flavored lambics – the traditional kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry), among others. And there are also more subtle uses, such as 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon (a refreshing wheat ale with just a hint of watermelon), or Ommegang’s Three Philosophers (a blend of their own Belgian Quad and Liefman’s Kriek). Definitely an excellent collection of beers for any time of the year.
Locally, Abita has been playing in the fruit beer realm for years. The raspberry wheat Purple Haze has been around forever, and their seasonal offerings include the Satsuma Wit and much beloved Strawberry Harvest, a brew that has rabid fans anticipating its release annually. However, none of these really captured my attention as much as the latest product of their Select Series: Strawator Strawberry Dopplebock.
I tried a couple of these last night at The Rusty Nail, a favorite watering hole in the Warehouse District, and was surprisingly pleased. Not as sweet as their original Strawberry, the extra maltiness of the dopplebock style helps balance the fruit quite well. After quaffing two, I definitely began to feel the 8% abv… a noticeable increase from the significantly lower 4.2% of the Strawberry Harvest. Not a bad thing, though, as the little extra heat from the alcohol also serves as a counterpoint to the fruit sweetness. Overall, this is a well-done brew and one I will happily consume again, as long as it is available.
Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to pass on a Cantillon Fou’ Foune if it comes my way, but you know what I’m saying. Drink local and all that…
So don’t be ashamed, boys and girls, of the stigma of fruit beer. Be as discerning as you would for any other style, but don’t be afraid to give it a try. You just might find yourself enjoying a whole new world of brew.