By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
I balked at doing this tasting as part of our annual salute to women in brewing issue, lest you think fruit beers are somehow “girl beers.” There was a time, and I’m not saying it’s entirely passed, when the ladies were served beer laced with fruit juice to save us from … what? Bad beer? Or the (ha ha) heavy alcohol in the Buds that were available to us then? Gurrl, please.
But despite the backhanded insult, I fell in love with fruit beers when my bestie’s mom served me and all of her guests — including the guys — cold shandies. This beer-lemonade combination, served on a hot summer day on her deck overlooking the Umpqua River, was refreshing. Suddenly, I was a fan of fruit beer, and it looked like I wasn’t a sissy for admitting it. Fast forward to 2016.
We’ve come a long way, babies. Evidence: Portland’s annual Fruit Beer Festival, June 10-12 this year in a new location in the North Park Blocks downtown. I dare you to stand amid those throngs of sweating men drinking fruit beers and yell, “Fruit beers are for girls!” If you make it out alive, you’ll have learned a valuable lesson: Fruit beers are for everyone.
Think you’re not a fruit beer drinker? You might think twice, because not all fruit beers are the same. It’s apples and oranges, literally. Our tasting last month featured fruit beers that ranged from sweet to tart, hot pink to tan, sessionable to heavy hitter. Didn’t like one? Try another. Fruit finds a friend in lambics, krieks, Belgian-style creations, wheats, stouts, blondes and even IPAs. I promise, you’ll find one that suits you and have a great time in the discovery phase.
Our volunteer tasters chose the following favorites from among the Oregon fruit beers sent to us last month:
Ambacht: Pie Cherry Pale, Hillsboro 7% ABV; 17 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The farmhouse-style golden ale is infused with whole Montmorency pie cherries from Yamhill County during the secondary fermentation. Rosy gold in color, its aroma has hints of cherries as well as almonds. Not too sweet, and just a little bit tart, this ale's smooth, dry finish makes it light on the tongue.
Consumer Comments: A fruity drink with a wine-like bite. Summery and not too tart. Tart cherries from the farm with a little salt. Reminds me of apricot fruit leather! Nice balance of tart and sweet. I’d enjoy a pint of this on a warm day. Good grapefruity taste.
Silver Moon: Mango Daze Session Ale, Bend 4.9% ABV; 29 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A mouthful of summer, this enjoyable session ale is packed with traditional fruity Northwest hops and a perfect hint of tropical mango.
Consumer Comments: A perfect summer picnic drink on a beautiful sunset warm evening with puffy clouds turning orange and pink as we lay under a gently-swaying willow tree. Smooth and sweet. Hibiscus tea? Loveliness! Peachy flavor. Tastes like the sun! Light and pleasant.
Rusty Truck: Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, Lincoln City 5.3% ABV; 20 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: The aroma of ripened Oregon blackberries on a crisp moonlit September night is what inspired our blackberry ale. This ale was aged on 126 pounds of pureed blackberries per 10-barrel batch. Enjoy the ride!
Consumer Comments: Nice, dry, not too sweet, fun color! Soft on a summer day when you need something light. It’s like a raspberry-cherry saison. A great session beer. Raspberry Jolly Rancher! Light and effervescent.
Ordnance: Bloops!, Boardman 4.6% ABV; 21 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This blueberry wheat beer starts with a pleasant blueberry nose followed by a sip of blueberry flavor and mingled with hearty malt sweetness. Reminiscent of blueberry pie. Who cares if it started life as an accident? Bloops!
Consumer Comments: Great nose! Wonderful to enjoy on a warm spring or summer day. A mysteriously good fruit pie. Fields of blue, mild and soft. A smooth and silky fruit salad. A berry party — serve it with pie. Berry light, alcohol with a bite.
Mazama: Rasplendent, Corvallis 5% ABV; 13 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: This is an award-winning American fruit ale. What could be more refreshing than crisp, juicy raspberries? Add hibiscus and it drinks like a glass of raspberry lemonade, but with a nice head of foam and a light touch of hops.
Consumer Comments: On the sweet side — serve it with whiskey? A mouth-puckering, sweet-tart experience. Easy drinking on a barbecue night. Not-quite-ripe strawberries. Raspberry kick. A good replacement for a blush wine on a hot summer day. Interesting! What is it? Really good.
10 Barrel: Raspberry Crush, Bend/Portland 5.5% ABV; 10 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: Raspberry Crush is the beer that started the Crush series. It is conditioned with loads of raspberries. The tartness of the base beer acts to amplify the raspberry flavor. You can almost taste the seeds!
Consumer Comments: Delicious raspberry beer to serve on a hot summer day. I could have two or three. Raspberries, I get it! So good! Nice and fruity raspberries. Sweet berries. Tantalizing fruity tickle on the tongue. A fruity Popsicle. Nice fruit flavor and a little sweet.
Hop Haus: Tiki Caliente Chili Mango, Gresham 4.9% ABV; 38 IBUs
Brewer’s Description: A well-balanced pale ale brewed with two-row, Munich, Golden Promise and Victory malts along with Willamette hops, toasted jalapeno and habanero peppers with pure mango juice.
Consumer Comments: Spicy! Ay, caramba! I have a jalapeno face! Habanero kick! Very nice pepper and a great summer beer. Habanero fruit salad! Great spicy peppers! Some tropical fruit with peppers. I would love it with some grilled halibut or prawns.
NEXT FREE TASTING: Oregon Beer Growler’s Pale Ale Tasting 3-7 p.m. Saturday, May 7 at the Seven Feathers Casino Hammer N’Ales Brewfest in Canyonville.
By Gail Oberst
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Fruit has flavored beers for centuries worldwide, in styles from Belgians to hefeweizens. Internationally loved, fruit beers can be found flavored with extracts, purees or whole fruit — fresh or dried.
Oregon brewers have a particular advantage: they have quick access to fresh fruits grown in the Northwest that range from rhubarb to pumpkins. This month’s Perfect Pints features, for example, include raspberries, cherries, prunes and blackberries grown in Oregon.
This region’s connection with fruit also makes its annual Portland Fruit Beer Fest, set for June 12-14 this year at Burnside Brewing, a natural. Dozens of breweries will feature fruit beers, some made specially for this event. Watch for updates and ticket sales at the website, www.fruitbeerfest.com.
Meanwhile, the following fruit beers are available now. The beers were chosen by our consumer judges at our monthly blind tasting at F.H. Steinbart homebrew shop in Portland.
Twisted Snout: Raspberry Squeal, Toledo 4.6 percent ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewery Description: It's a crisp golden ale brewed with real raspberries.
Consumer Comments: Like jam and beer … awesome. Raspberry! Oh, there’s a party in my mouth and every-berry’s invited. Makes my lips smack. Fruit pie from grandma’s secret recipe. Love to share this with grandma as we sit on the porch and watch the river flow by. Would serve this to my wife on Valentine’s Day and hope to get lucky. I might need to try a whole glass of this...
Coalition: Space Fruit Citrus IPA, Portland 7.0 percent ABV, 50 IBUs
Brewery Description: Space Fruit is a West Coast IPA with a citrus twist. Coalition uses five different citrus fruits to create unique flavors and aromatics that mingle with the hop character.
Consumer Comments: Carmen Miranda with her tropical fruit hat! Juniper fireworks: Gets you ready for the 4th. Love this beer -- yum, yum. Call me a cab, I would like to overindulge in this one. Rosemary? Pineapple? Yeah, this is a good beer. I tend to like the hops.
Golden Valley: Italian Prune Bomb, McMinnville 8.5 percent ABV, 54 IBUs
Brewery Description: Golden Valley’s Tannen Bomb was aged in pinot noir barrels with 75 pounds of fresh Italian prunes harvested from the brewmaster’s family orchard. Two fermentations later, this pink-colored beer has a lively floral, fruit blossom nose.
Consumer Comments: Boozy, vanilla. For a high-alcohol beer, it’s tasty. It’s got a brandy feel. Sugarplum fairies dance in my head! Ready to chill out with the peeps. The sun coming out after a sudden rainstorm. To quote Justin: “I can drink the shit out of this beer!” Delicious and less beer-like with an interesting aftertaste. This is my favorite so far. I’d love to get hammered on this one and see how I feel the next day.
Rusty Truck: Moonlight Ride Blackberry Ale, Lincoln City 5.3 percent ABV, 20 IBUs
Brewery Description: The aroma of ripened Oregon blackberries on a crisp moonlit September night is what inspired this blackberry ale. This ale is aged on 126 pounds of pureed blackberries per 10-barrel batch.
Consumer Comments: I’d be interested in finding out how much is too much of this beer. Pink lemonade city. Berry fruit cocktail with farmhouse essence. Nice flavor. Grapefruit? Raspberry?
Stickmen: Dark Cherry Wheat, Lake Oswego 6.0 percent ABV, 23 IBUs
Brewery Description: This American wheat beer with cherry is a simple wheat recipe with a secondary fermentation on 168 pounds of Oregon dark cherries. It finishes dry with a hint of tartness.
Consumer Comments: Wow. I would drink this on my lunch break and then deny it to my boss! Strawberry jam on crack. Strawberry jam slathered on pepperoni. Refreshing! A lot of Brett, like a farmyard in a good way. Unripe melons.
McMenamins: Ruby Ale, Oregon 4.39 percent ABV, N/A IBUs
Brewery Description: One of McMenamins’ standards since 1986, it is still a light, crisp and refreshingly fruity ale. Great Western Premium 2-row and 42 pounds of Oregon-grown and processed raspberry puree are used to craft every colorful batch.
Consumer Comments: Delicious! Yum, raspberry soda. Light and wheaty summer day beer with mixed berries. Perfect summer sipper (or slammer!). Berry heaven. Strawberry shortcake — no whipped cream. Berry goodness as you are wandering the fields. Refreshing, light, deep and pretty. Would like to fill my CamelBak with this and suck it down while cutting the grass.
Widmer: Hefe Shandy, Portland 4.2 percent ABV, 12 IBUs
Brewery Description: The original American hefeweizen gets a bold, new citrusy aroma and flavor from lemon drop hops and natural lemonade flavor.
Consumer Comments: Super citrus, smells like lemonade. It’s a radler and it’s delicious. Key lime pie eaten on a veranda at sunset. Get out the bikini and spray tan. I’m replacing my after-dinner cup of lemon ginger tea with this. Awesome summer taste. Lemonhead! I love how dry. Would love to listen to country music while drinking this. Okay we have a winner. This is my favorite.
NEXT FREE TASTING:
Oregon Beer Growler’s IPA Tastings:
Friday, June 12 at 5 p.m.
Three Legged Dog, Independence
Saturday, June 13 at 1 p.m.
F.H. Steinbart Co., Portland
Oregon Beer Growler each month invites consumers to “blind” taste a different style or group of beers at various locations across the state.