It’s the holiday weekend, and some friends and I are headed to a zoo brew event tomorrow. They get money for the zoo, I get beer. It’s an excellent trade — though it would admittedly be better if the beer were allowed into the zoo! I want to drink with the giraffes, you guys!
As a general rule, I do not like fruit beers. I do okay with fruit sours* because they’re sour, but fruit beers that aren’t sours are generally too sweet and, well, fruity for me. And I despise radlers. The exception to this rule is the summer blueberry beers. I am a whore for blueberry beers. My friends make fun of me about this at length.
Fruit beer has an interesting history in that it’s not linear. There are enormous gaps of time between periods of fruit beer brewing. The ancient Chinese brewed an alcoholic drink related to beer with fruit and honey. The Egyptians used dates and pomegranate in their beer.** And then fruit beers fell off the map.
For a long, long while. The Germans were (and remain) decidedly anti-bastardization of their beer, so no fruit in the modern tradition until…
…the Belgians came along and started brewing lambics and krieks in the 1930s. And people liked those. So for about 70 years, that was the standard. And then the American microbreweries started in with pumpkin beers in the fall.*** And those were really popular. So more breweries started playing with more fruits.
The recent trend of adding fruit to beer is a decidedly American thing — as are most of the trends like the spate of sours that have come out over the last three or four years, and the addition of chiles**** and lactose.*****
*But not watermelon sours. Watermelon does not belong in beer. It’s delicious on its own and disgusting in beer. It is also not a vegetable.
**I have a can of a special pomegranate sour release a local brewery did while my dad was visiting two weeks ago in my fridge.
***I’m very picky about pumpkin beers. If they taste of pumpkin, I like them. If they taste of pumpkin spice, I don’t.
****I am a big fan of putting chiles in beer. The Midwest has some great chile beers. Crow Peak in Spearfish, SD makes a really good one, as does One Well in Lansing, Michigan. The one at Bent River in Moline, Illinois is also decent. All three you’ll have to travel for. If they’re still making them. We were at all of these almost a year ago.
*****These are hit and miss for me, but one of the only IPAs I’ve ever liked was a coconut lactose IPA I had last summer at Drekker in Fargo, ND. They also had a great blueberry basil sour called Purple People Eater, which was both delicious and amusing.