I Prefer My Fruit ... on Draft
Brewing beer with fruit is no new trend in craft beer. The Belgians have been doing it for generations. Now brewers are turning to brews from the tropics.
No, we aren’t talking about shoving a lime wedge into your Mexican lager. Breweries are using citrus to impart different flavors. Many hop varieties, like Citra, Centennial, Cascade, Amarillo and Columbus, naturally add flavors that are reminiscent of grapefruit or other citrus. Rather than just using the hops, breweries add citrus to elevate those flavors, creating refreshing, zesty, hoppy beers. Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin is one of the best known grapefruit IPAs that was introduced early. Now, many breweries are hopping on the grapefruit train to offer a twist on a traditional IPA, like Magic Hat’s Electric Peel and Samuel Adams’ Grapefruit Rebel. Stiegl Radler is a hybrid of a German lager mixed with grapefruit soda to create a refreshing low-alcohol option. Another lager, Shiner Ruby Redbird, uses grapefruit with ginger to add a spicy spin.
Other citrus fruits have found a home with craft beer. Funky Buddha’s More Moro Blood Orange IPA is their spring seasonal, melding fresh blood-orange juice with a hoppy IPA. Every year, Due South releases its seasonal Hopicana, an orange rye IPA. Southern Tier is offering up Tangier, a tangerine session IPA, while Uinta Brewing Company has released Hop Nosh Tangerine IPA. New Belgium’s Citradelic also combines tangerine with this IPA. Over the years, kumquat Berlinerweisses and key lime wits have popped up.
South Florida loves its mangos, and this tropical favorite is popping up in beers, too. Ballast Point recently launched their Mango Even Keel, a session IPA brewed with mango. Founders Brewing Company recently released their limited beer, Mango Magnifico, for the second time. This 10% beer is brewed with mango and a touch of habanero, which helps to add spice and balance out the natural sweetness in the beer. For the first time in years, Dogfish Head Brewery switched up their spring seasonal offering after discovering that an essential oil called myrcene can be found in hops, apricots and mangos. As a nod to this relationship, they created Romantic Chemistry, an IPA brewed with these ingredients plus a touch of ginger.
If you’ve ever tried passionfruit, you know how deliciously tart this fruit can be. Many breweries have toyed with harnessing this signature character. Breweries like Funky Buddha Brewery and Barrel of Monks have used the fruit to “treat,” or add, to the beer. Funky Buddha has featured passionfruit in their Crusher Session IPA, and Barrel of Monks has added it to their flagship White Wizard to give it a unique, tart and fruity twist. Avery Brewing Company has added Lilikoi Kepolo to their yearly lineup in cans. This starts as a traditional Belgian-style wit beer, but the addition of passionfruit juice provides a distinctive aroma and acidity that’s amazingly refreshing and perfect for warm weather. J Wakefield Brewing Company put themselves on the map with their signature Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit Berlinerweiss. The dragon fruit in this beer turns it neon pink, and the passionfruit adds to the natural sourness found in this style of beer.
Nutty for Coconut
Who could think of South Florida without the iconic coconut palm? Technically, coconut is a drupe – a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed, like a plum, cherry, almond or olive. In recent years, local breweries have been going coconut crazy – the roasted malt and chocolatey flavors in darker beers meld perfectly with coconut flavors. Funky Buddha’s Last Snow is a coffee coconut porter that tastes like liquid Almond Joy. Wynwood Brewing sporadically releases their Samoa’s Cookie, a porter brewed with coconut, caramel and chocolate to pay homage to one of the greatest Girl Scout cookies. Avery Brewing Company released their Coconut Porter this year, an imperial porter aged in rum barrels with coconuts. At 9.5% alcohol, it’s one to be careful with. Last year, Oskar Blues released Death By Coconut in Florida for the first time, an Irish porter that flew off the shelves. Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut Porter utilizes hand-toasted Hawaiian coconut in their 6% porter. One of the few breweries making a lighter beer with coconut is Miami Brewing, whose Big Rod is a very distinctive coconut blonde ale.
As breweries experiment and play with a variety of ingredients, they go farther down the tropical fruit rabbit hole. At Twisted Trunk Brewing in Palm Beach Gardens, Watermelon Saison is a spicy Belgian-style brew with a Florida twist. Ballast Point recently released their double IPA Dorado with watermelon and their Sculpin IPA brewed with pineapple. Funky Buddha has also been brewing a pineapple blonde ale and pineapple versions of their Hop Gun IPA. Cigar City Brewing in Tampa has always embraced Florida’s natural love for tropical fruits, with releases like Papaya IPA and Guava Grove, a saison brewed with guava. For the Big Guava Festival last year, Funky Buddha brewed Big Guava Jelly Blonde Ale last year, utilizing 1,500 pounds of real guava fruit.
In new hop varieties coming out of the Northwest and Down Under – New Zealand and Australia – many fruit flavors are appearing naturally in the hops. As these become more readily available and consumers are itching for something new and exciting, there seems to be no slowdown in sight for craft breweries to play with tropical and untested ingredients. What’s next? A lychee or sea grape IPA? A custard apple açai tripel? Whatever it is, I know I’m excited to get my daily serving of fruit!