The craft beer boom in the United States began its steady swell nearly three decades ago, and as American beer favorites have shifted from the watered-down fizz that our Grandads drank to turn-your-face-inside-out hoppiness, we’re gradually working our way toward a happy, drinkable medium. Somewhere between man-bun, hipster IPA snobs and sleeveless, toothless, redneck light beer there is that holy grail of beverages: the just-right beer.
Like Goldilocks on her quest for the perfect nap, we are settling into the admission that we like some beer in our beer, but shock-factor IBUs (International Bitterness Units, for the uninformed) are a little overkill. Enter the fruit beers. What started out as an orange in your wheat beer has leapfrogged its way into lemon shandies, raspberry sours and watermelon blondes that even the hippest trustafarians and manliest lumberjacks have to admit hit the spot on a long, hot summer day. We’re not talking sweet beers here. We’re not talking lemon-lime malted beverages a la Zima, circa 1999. We’re talking robust beers with a respectable alcohol by volume (ABV) and a hint of seasonal fruity goodness.
With Leinenkugel leading the commercial pack in their line of easy-drinking summer shandys, they are followed by a myriad of microbrewed variations on the theme. Here are ten of the frontrunners that we have chosen, which you may or may not be able to find at your local purveyor of fine beverage.
Power Peak Peach Sour : Quartzite Brewing has been rocking fruit-infused sours on the regular lately, including this scintillating early summer treat. The brewers offered this explanation of the Power Peak Sour on their Facebook page: “Sours are a type of ale that are tarted with Lactobacillus (like your yogurt) or another bacteria called Brettanomyces. Generally have a tarter flavor and more complex profile then your traditional beer. We made one and aged it on peaches.”
Grapefruit Sculpin : Made by Ballast Point and with a base of their award winning Sculpin American IPA, the grapefruit infusion lends itself well to the citrus packed hops in this beer. This is a manly fruit beer if ever there was one.
Liliko'i Kepolo : this passion fruit infused Belgian whitbier from Avery Brewing in Colorado is at the top of several man-approved lists, and with a name that translates into “passion fruit devil”, why wouldn’t you want to try it?
Hell or High Watermelon : pretty much anything from 21st Amendment Brewing is something to love, and this watermelon wheat beer is no exception, not to mention the appearance of Lady Liberty on the can, which makes this summertime goodness as American as they come. Amiright?
Raspberry Crush : 10 Barrel Brewing out of Bend, Oregon, brings the latest evolution of their sour series to the table, and it is, as the name portends, crushable. We tried both the Raspberry and Cucumber crush beers from 10 Barrel and while beauty is in the eye of the beerholder, we’re gonna stick with the berries on this one.
Devil’s Kriek : no fruit beer list would be complete without at least one kriek, and we’ve got to hand it to Double Mountain Brewing in Hood River, Oregon on this one. Devil’s Kriek is a Flanders Red style Belgian sour ale packed to the gills with locally grown bing cherries and aged for a year before release.
Strawberry Rhubarb : New Glarus Brewing returns to the list with their Strawberry Rhubarb beer - because if it’s good enough for pie… But seriously, while this “bright, effervescent” sour might be pushing the girly limits, it’s so good that you won’t care if your masculinity is in question.
Cascade Apricot Ale : classified as a “wild ale” this a blond ale blend that is barrel aged for nine months, then aged for another six after being loaded with fresh ripe apricots. Whether they’re AYpricots or AHpricots to you, you’ll like this Oregon beer.
Groove Pineapple Wheat : If you’ve never heard of Moses Lake, Washington’s Ten Pin Brewing, allow us to introduce you, and you’re welcome. This American Wheat beer made by the brewery/bowling alley with Mosaic hops and fresh squeezed pineapple is the stuff legends are made of, and probably new bowling records too.
Watermelon Blonde : Just because you can’t find it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Northern Ales, based in the tiny town of Kettle Falls, Washington, makes this seasonal blonde with loads of fresh watermelon, and serve it at the brewpub (the only place you can currently get it) with fresh watermelon chunks floating in it. Nothing says summer in America like watermelon in your beer.