Fruit beers are as commonplace on a brewpub’s menu as pizza or French fries, so why not have one in your homebrew queue? We have all tasted at least one and there are even some we may have enjoyed. The options for brewing fruit beers are endless, with the range of beer styles being just as diverse as the fruit varieties. The timing, the form the fruit takes, and how to add it is all completely up to us, and our desired fruit beer outcome.
As we all may have seen, the fruit department in your local store or farmer’s market offers a huge variety of different kinds of fruits, so choosing the one that will do best in beer is no easy task. Of course, start with the kinds of fruit that you actually enjoy. Then think about how that fruit tastes without its sugar component — most of the sugar will be fermented out. For example, if the fruit is bitter without sugar, you are going to get a concentrated version of that flavor. After the selection of the fruit is made, we then want to think about what style of beer will pair well with it. We don’t want to overpower either the fruit or the beer, so finding a good balance is a must when tackling this task. This could also be a good excuse to taste-test a bunch of different varieties of beers while sampling the fruit selection. A healthy and fun activity!
When, Where, Why
Adding the fruit at the end of fermentation can be a sure-fire way to have a very clean example of a fruit beer. Why would we do that when we have an entire boil and two weeks of fermentation in which to be adding different forms and amounts of our selected fruit? Just like with finishing hops, we want to retain as much of the aroma and flavor of the fruit as possible so if we add any to the boil we want to do it at flame out or very close to the end.
Otherwise, adding the fruit in different stages of the fermentation process can boost alcohol content and give a rounder flavor profile for the fruit. If adding fruit to the fermenter or even to the keg we need to freeze the fruit first for two reasons. The first is to kill any wild yeast or bacteria that will be living on the skin of our fruit. The second is to break up the cell walls of the fruit allowing access to all the flavors and aromas without cooking them off with heat. After freezing, we then thaw and crush the fruit the day we are adding it to our beer. If you don’t what to use fresh or frozen fruit there are also many different kinds of extracts that can give us a similar flavor and aroma. These don’t substitute perfectly but can be a quick and easy way to start experimenting.
Building a new recipe can be a fun and exciting way to develop your brewing skills. Next time you’re working on a new masterpiece, maybe think outside of the box a bit. Aside from the traditional brewing ingredients, we also have the full use of the produce section at our local grocery store. It seems like a natural marriage — adding fruit to beer instead of adding the fruit to the finished product. Why not build a recipe that allows you to incorporate all aspects of the fruit you are using to create a unique flavor experience?
Download the recipes:
BALLS BLUES BLUEBERRY LAGER (AG)
BALLS BLUES BLUEBERRY LAGER (EXTRACT)