There was a time where I cringed at the sight of a raspberry wheat or berry blonde beer. I just thought it was too dainty and affected, and frankly, not worth purchasing. But when you start with a great beer, if done right, fruit in beer can be refreshing and flavorful, and a perfect sipper during the warmer months.
I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so. The “tropical-flavored” IPA sales increased by 250 percent year-on-year within the IPA category, according to the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia in May 2016. In 2010, 15 percent of the new beers introduced were flavored beers, according to the market research firm Mintel. In 2015, that number had doubled; 27 percent of new beers that came onto the market that year were flavored varieties.
But you can already see that fruit won’t just be relegated to IPAs. Brewers are infusing pale ales, IPAs, saisons and even stouts with fruit from the farm to intensify their inherent flavors of grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and limes. Brewers are even developing styles that are better able to carry the fruit. Some of these new juicy beers are a result of experimental hops with aromatic qualities.
Take San Diego’s Ballast Point Pineapple Sculpin, for example. Since its purchase by Constellation, they are even more widely available – and this is a good thing. In the summer of 2014, the company released Habanero Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin. Or take New Belgium Citradelic Tangerine IPA, launched in January 2016, another fruit-forward beer that is widely available. The sweeter and tangy orange character intertwines with the hops very nicely. This beer is jammed with Citra, citrusy Mandarina Bavaria, tropical Azzaca, and fruity Galaxy hops. On top of all this, they add tangerine-infused orange peel.
I spoke with Chris Anderson from Coachella Valley Brewing, who is not only an award-winning brewer, but also started out as an executive chef at Alaska Pacific University. Anderson was the executive chef at Moose’s Tooth and Café Europa in Anchorage. He also 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 tells me. “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.”
These better fruit beers have played a role in bringing more non-traditional beer drinkers to the table. “I think you will see that bringing newbies to craft for sure,” Anderson says. “Customers are continually looking for variety; brand loyalty is a thing of the past. 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 beers with lemon zest Sorachi Ace and grapefruit-hinted Cascade, IPAs are perfectly primed for fruit additions, according to Anderson. “I think just about any beer can work fruited as long as it marries and doesn’t conflict,” he says.