WORDS BY LUKAS RASCHILLA
Incorporating fruit and fruity flavours in beer is not a a new phenomenon, with a number of Belgian and French styles of beer using fruits in the brewing process. The Belgians first utilised fruit in their lambic (wild yeast fermentation) style beers, which prior to the addition of a variety of fruits, are extremely sour and tart. Common fruit additions to lambic beers are cherry (Kriek), raspberry (Framboise) and peach (Peche). The fruit beer category is currently enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, so we thought what better way than to delve into just what makes a fruit beer.
WHAT IS A LAMBIC BEER?
Lambic refers to a Belgian style of beer that is spontaneously fermented and unblended. These are made using wild fermented yeast and bacteria in the brew that is airborne and/or comes from the tainted barrels they ferment in. Lambics are aged before consumption to ensure the tartness has mellowed and is balanced.
A lambic fruit beer refers to whole fruits being added after spontaneous fermentation has started. Once the fruit is added, the beer is subjected to additional maturation before bottling. Malt and hop characters in lambic beers are generally low to allow the fruit to consume the palate. The alcohol level also tends to be low in these beers.
Perhaps the most well-known producers of lambic beers are Timmermans, who are Belgium’s oldest active lambic brewery. The Timmerman’s range features strawberry, peach, cherry, and raspberry beers.
FRUIT BEER CLASSIFICATION
According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, fruit beer is classified as beer made with any fruit or combination of fruit. The culinary not botanical definition of fruit is used, so only fruits with flesh, seeds, and parts that are edible in their raw state may be used. Examples include pome fruit (apple, pear, quince), stone fruit (dates, prunes, raisin), tropical fruit (banana, pineapple, guava etc.), figs, pomegranate, prickly pear, and so on. This does not include spices, herbs or vegetables in the classification.
The colour of fruit beer will depend on the fruit used in the process, with the colour of the fruit often being lighter than the flesh of the fruit itself, or taking on slightly different shades.
The key to fruit beer is balance; after all, it’s not fruit juice we’re drinking! The flavour of the fruit should be noticeable but not overpowering or taste artificial. Hop bitterness, malt flavours, alcohol content and fermentation by-products such as esters should be present and well-balanced. The fruit additions are designed to add flavour to the beer but not sweetness. Fruit adds fermentation that tends to thin out a beer, resulting in a beer that may seem lighter than expected for the base style.
Ian Kingham of The Institute of Beer says, “As soon as you add fruit, you’re making a fruit beer. Adding fruit can be juice, peel, whole fruits, and fruit stones. A fruit beer is where fruit is added to give a dominant flavour of the beer.”
WHAT GIVES BEER A FRUITY TASTE?
There are a number of things that can contribute to a fruity taste in beer, but the main ones are:
• The addition of fruit (real fruit flesh, juice or seeds, not flavourings)
• A fermentation characteristic which is often seen in wild fermented beers in countries like Belgium
• Aromatic or ‘fruity’ hop, the most well known being citra, galaxy and nelson sauvin
Hops can give beers a fruit characteristic. For example, some American pale ales will often use citra hops, which impart an orange-like flavour. In Australia, galaxy hops are often used which gives a tropical fruit type character, with Stone & Wood being one of the first breweries to use a lot of galaxy hops in their brews. Pacific ales are all about galaxy hops. The third kind of hop is a New Zealand hop called nelson sauvin which gives a pine needle, tropical fruit note and an almost pine-lime flavour. These hops are added late in the brewing process.
In the brewing process, most hops are thrown in very early to give beer a whole lot of bitterness. The ‘fruit’ hops are thrown in late because they have a nice perfume and aroma with low bitterness. They are designed to add flavour and aroma to the beer.
German wheat beers, such as dunkelweiss and hefeweizen, also express fruit aroma and flavour but do not use any fruit in the brewing process. A hefeweizen is a Bavarian style wheat beer that typically shows banana and clove flavour notes, derived from the specialised wheat beer yeast strain. Similarly, the Belgian style Wit Beer, an example being Hoegaarden Wit, is usually made with unmalted and malted wheat (in addition to malted barley) and sometimes oats that give the flavour of coriander seed and dried orange peel, although variations to the latter include using actual citrus fruits during the brewing process. Using hops or fermentation doesn’t classify the beer as a fruit beer. It must contain the addition of fruit, fruit juice, peels, stones or parts.
EXAMPLES OF FRUIT BEERS
Wilson Hede, Head Brewer at Two Birds Brewing has used lime peel and coriander in the Two Birds Taco Beer since it’s inception. Used in the boil and after fermentation, the fresh lime peel pairs with the citrus flavours brought out by the hops in the beer. Similarly, at the 2017 Great Australian Beer Spectapular (GABS) Two Birds created Slayer, a dragon fruit kettle |sour. Hede says, “We used a similar brew to our pale, which already has fruity tropical notes and after fermentation we added around 2,000 litres of dragon fruit puree to the fermenter. The dragon fruit had a little bit of a red currant, raspberry kind of flavour which worked well with the fruity hops.”
Matso’s Broome Brewery is famous for their Matso’s Mango, a beer that’s part of their core range. The brew is based on a classic Belgian Blonde recipe with a fruit variation. A natural mango blend is added post fermentation, making for a well-balanced fruit taste with sweet dryness.
Fixation Brewing Co., known for their Fixation IPA have created Fixation Squish, an IPA that blends grapefruit and blood oranges for a fruity, hop driven beer.
Todd Delmont, Managing Partner of Fixation says, “What we’ve done is dry hopped the beer and added white grapefruit and blood orange puree post-fermentation.It’s really about complementing the Amarillo, citra, and mosaic hops and accentuating them with the fruit additions without overpowering the hops”.
HERE ARE SOME OF OUR TOP PICKS!
FERAL BREWING WATERMELON WARHEAD – 2.9% ABV IBU 8
The Watermelon Warhead is a delicious brew. A very fresh, spritzy and refreshing beer! It’s a part of the Feral Brewpub range, which is only brewed in small batches a few times a year in keg only. To make this beer, 400kgs of watermelons are added into 1200 litres, all hand-skinned and pressed.
MATSO’S MANGO – 4.5% ABV IBU 8
This beer is based on a classic Belgium Blonde recipe with added fruit. Using a 100% natural mango blend, the brewers have developed an easy drinking beer style with amazing fruit aromas balanced out with sweet dryness. This is a great tropical beer for the warmer weather.
TWO BIRDS TACO – 5.2% ABV IBU 28
On a U.S. trip, after a flight from San Diego to Portland, Two Birds decided to brew a beer using ingredients of their favourite food on the trip; tacos. Adding fresh lime peel, coriander leaf and corn to the brew results in the fresh, fruity and zesty beer.
BOATROCKER MISS PINKY – 3.4% ABV IBU 5
Miss Pinky is a Raspberry Berliner Weisse, that was first brewed in 2015 as a one-off release and it’s popularity made Boatrocker add this beer to the core range in 2016. Berliner Weisse is an old style of beer originating in Berlin and it is a sour wheat beer. When we talk about sour beer, we are just talking about lowering the ph
levels of a beer using acid, in this case lactic acid. This makes a tart and refreshing beer. To counter balance the tartness, Boatrocker’s brewers add 250 kilos of local raspberries per batch, which gives it its bright pink hue. The result has notes of fresh raspberries followed by a dry, tart finish.
SIERRA NEVADA SIDECAR – 5.3% ABV IBU 35
The Sierra Nevada Sidecar is a orange pale ale, combining hops with a bright citrus character that comes from the addition of orange peel in both the brew kettle and fermenter. This gives the classic pale ale profile a zesty fresh orange flavour.
GOLDEN ROAD TART MANGO CART – 3.2% ABV IBU 10
Los Angeles based Golden Road Brewing offer Tart Mango Cart, a mango wheat ale (Berliner Weisse) made with fresh mango. This beer pays homage to the fruit cart vendors of LA and is designed to be a refreshing wheat ale with fresh mango notes and a slight tart finish.